MNN Awards: EMR gives the ASX a new copper growth story

THE mid-2021 float of 29Metals gave ASX mining investors what they had been craving for some time – a new copper growth story.
MNN Awards: EMR gives the ASX a new copper growth story MNN Awards: EMR gives the ASX a new copper growth story MNN Awards: EMR gives the ASX a new copper growth story MNN Awards: EMR gives the ASX a new copper growth story MNN Awards: EMR gives the ASX a new copper growth story

EMR managing director Jason Chang (left) and chairman Owen Hegarty

While the ASX 200 includes 10 gold miners and even eight lithium plays, it has just two copper miners, OZ Minerals and Sandfire Resources.

Global mining fund EMR Capital started weighing up the options for its copper assets, which comprised the Golden Grove mine in Western Australia, Capricorn mine in Queensland and Redhill project in Chile, around 2019.

EMR managing director Jason Chang told MNN the company appointed advisors, led by Macquarie, and ran a dual track process - one considering a trade sale and the other an initial public offering.

"We got some very credible bids from a range of parties, from around the world and within Australia," he said.

"It was actually line-ball between public and what we call a private treaty sale.

"And ultimately, we went with the IPO, because we wanted to hang on to a chunk of the assets, we wanted to be a long-term investor in the three assets that went into 29Metals, because we really believe in it, we continue to believe in it - it has huge upside.

"How often do you get good assets, Australia-anchored on the ASX? Not too often."

Chang said the IPO was priced attractively at 4.8 times enterprise value to EBITDA.

"We could have priced it differently at a higher multiple, but I think we felt that we wanted a good quality register and we wanted people to really win from this," he said.

The IPO raised $527.8 million at $2 per share and 29M listed with an EV of $1.06 billion.

EMR retained a 45% stake in 29M, which celebrated its one-year anniversary as a listed company on July 2.

The listing, the largest ASX mining float in over a decade, was a bit of a litmus test, but the stock was well-received by the market and traded as high as $3.35 as recently as April, prior to the decline in global markets.

29M joined the ASX 300 in March and is Australia's third-largest listed copper miner.

Redhill was acquired by EMR in 2013, followed by Capricorn in 2015 and Golden Grove in 2017.

Chang describes the combination of three assets into a single company as a "triple dive".

"The degree of difficulty was up there and we got it over the line," he said.

29M produced 68,200 tonnes of copper equivalent in 2021, ahead of guidance of 67,300t.            

Pro-forma EBITDA for 2021 was $254.1 million, above guidance set in the prospectus of $221 million.

Guidance for 2022 is 39,000-46,000t of copper, 55,000-65,000t of zinc, 27,000-34,000oz of gold, 1.37-1.64Moz of silver and 2000-3000t of lead.

29M has a goal to grow copper equivalent production by 50% over five years.

EMR co-founder Owen Hegarty chairs the 29M board, which also features managing director and CEO Peter Albert, and independent non-executive directors, Bellevue Gold and Whitehaven Coal director Fiona Robertson, former BHP Olympic Dam president Jacqui McGill AO and former Aquila Resources CFO Martin Alciaturi.

Hegarty has been a long-time copper bull and despite the dip in the red metal to 20-month lows this week, he remains so.

"As I keep saying, the direction, course is perfectly clear - copper is powering the whole energy transition and will continue to power the whole energy transition," he told MNN.

"I think it's fair to say the force is clear in terms of the thematic, the dynamic of people looking to increase their standards of living and long-term economic growth.

"There will be humps and bumps along the way, but the good thing, of course, is copper is involved in all of that.

"You want to be as long as strong as you possibly can in quality unhedged copper, which we've got at 29M."

EMR Capital is a nominee for Deal of the Year in the 2022 MNN Awards.

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