Commodities & Metals

Freeport-McMoRan Shares Boosted on Asset Sale

To paraphrase the late U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen, a few hundred million here and a few hundred million there, and pretty soon it adds up to real money. Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) certainly hopes so at least.

The company sold an interest in its stake in a Serbian copper project at Timok to Toronto’s Lundin Mining. The deal could be worth up to $262.5 million to Freeport, provided certain development milestones are met. Freeport is the majority owner of the Timok project and its operator. The company’s current minority partner is another Canada-based miner, Reservoir Minerals, which holds right of first offer on the proposed sale.

Reservoir has 60 days to exercise its first-offer right. If it chooses not to do so, Lundin said the deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

Freeport currently owns 54% of the Timok project, which has been divided into upper and lower zones, and Reservoir holds 45%. Details of the proposed deal are complicated, but the end result would be that Lundin would own 75% of the project’s upper zone and Reservoir would own the rest. Freeport would own 54% of the project’s lower zone, Reservoir would own 25% and Lundin would own 24%.

Last month Freeport sold a 13% ownership stake in its Morenci project for $1 billion to its joint-venture partner in the Arizona mine, Japan-based Sumitomo. Freeport’s long-term debt at the end of December totaled $19.8 billion. Freeport aims to cut at least $5 billion from that total from asset sales.

Freeport’s shares traded up about 12% in the early afternoon Friday, at $10.22 in a 52-week range of $3.52 to $23.97. That low was posted less than two months ago. The consensus price target on the shares is $6.58.

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