I think Glencore will take this sucker out: Cole Smead
Teck Resources Ltd. may have backtracked on its plan to split its coal and metals businesses into separate companies, but analysts predict the battle for the future of its assets is just beginning.
The B.C.-based miner pulled the plug on the spinoff hours before shareholders were set to vote on the proposal – a move that indicates the company did not have the support it needed, said Laura Lau, chief investment officer at Brompton Group.
However, Lau said “investors have spoken that they would like the metals and coal assets to be split,” and questions remain about if, how and when that will happen.
“I don’t think this is done. This is just the first, second innings,” she said in a television interview with BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday.
Teck was ramping up for the vote in recent weeks while fending off an unsolicited takeover offer from Glencore Plc., a Swiss miner that wanted to buy the company as a single united entity and blend Teck’s steelmaking coal assets with its own thermal coal operations.
At the heart of the battle were tensions around environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment priorities, which place a premium on Teck’s metal assets like copper, which are used to build clean technologies like electric vehicles, and reject coal as a major source of climate change-inducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Lau, who owns shares in both Teck and Glencore, said she expects Glencore will also ultimately spin off its own coal assets to appeal to investors who want to avoid coal exposure.
She said Glencore will have a “front row seat” to purchase Teck, though the Canadian company could go to another buyer – and she said she thinks Teck is worth a higher price than the US$23 billion Glencore initially offered.
Cole Smead, president and portfolio manager at Smead Capital Management, meanwhile, said he anticipates Glencore will acquire Teck.
“I think Glencore’s going to take this sucker down,” he told BNN Bloomberg in a television interview.
Smead said he thinks the latest development in the Teck saga points to how ESG investing pressure is “not proving to be very economic.” If Glencore completes its desired acquisition, Smead said he thinks the company will be building “the most liquid coal business in the world,” because the coal has become valuable as the world tries to produce less of it.
“No one's saying how good the coal business is and nobody wants to be in the coal business, which is a way I think I can get fabulously wealthy and so can our investors and therefore we press on,” he said.
Teck CEO Jonathan Price said in a statement Wednesday that the company still considers Glencore’s proposal “a non-starter,” and the plan going forward will be “to pursue a simpler and more direct separation, which is the best path to unlock the full value of Teck for our shareholders.”
Christine Tan, portfolio manager at SLGI Asset Management, said the question about what to do with coal is a major consideration for investors in an ESG-focused environment.
She noted that Teck’s scuttled proposal would have seen profits from the coal side funnelling into the metals business for years to come, which complicated the matter for investors.
“Is it really as clean of a split as investors would like,” she said in a Wednesday interview. “Perhaps that's what management's referring to when they talk about coming back or potentially thinking about cleaner way to split the assets.”
Tan also highlighted concerns that have been raised about a foreign company buying Teck, which is considered a valuable asset for Canada’s as the country tries to position itself as a provider of critical minerals in the global energy transition.
“What does that do to the future of Teck, would be the key question for me,” she said.