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Jul 26, 2018

Lundin's hostile Nevsun bid, management change 'appropriate': Outgoing CEO

A change in leadership at Lundin Mining

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Lundin Mining Corp. is going all in on a new direction.

The company (LUN.TO) made two major announcements over the past 24 hours, announcing a CEO change on Wednesday, followed by a hostile takeover bid for Nevsun Resources Ltd. (NSU.TO) on Thursday morning.

According to the company’s outgoing CEO, the two announcements needed to go hand-in-hand.

“The timing was needed and appropriate,” Paul Conibear, who has served as Lundin’s chief executive since 2011, told BNN Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday. “We had a circular come out this morning in regards to our unsolicited offer on Nevsun and I think, consistent with how we operate, we need to be fully transparent.”

“And, I don’t think it would have been in the best interests of either party for an announcement to come out in early October, several weeks before we were hoping to have a high degree of Nevsun stock tendered to us.”

Marie Inkster, the company’s incoming CEO, joined BNN Bloomberg alongside Conibear and stressed that their alignment on the bid was essential in selling it to Nevsun shareholders.

“Paul and I are aligned in the approach to that and we’re going to work very hard to make sure that the shareholders in Nevsun understand the value that we’re offering and that we have a successful tender into the bid,” Inkster told BNN Bloomberg.

Thursday’s hostile takeover bid comes after five previous attempts to reach a deal with Nevsun, which owns two major mining projects in Serbia and Eritrea, according to Conibear.

Lundin Mining's $1.4B bid for Nevsun undervalues Timok asset: Shareholder

BNN Bloomberg speaks to Nevsun shareholder Adrian Day, CEO of Adrian Day Asset Management, about why he thinks Nevsun should sell itself, but not at the $1.4 billion price that Lundin Mining has offered.

Conibear said the hostile takeover came after exasperating numerous attempts to close a deal with Nevsun executives.

“Each of five successive proposals made since early February were rejected by Nevsun despite multiple moves by us to address their concerns on structure, bidding partner and price,” Conibear said. “Each time we presented a proposal, the goal posts changed.”

Nevsun said on July 17 that Lundin’s last offer of $5 per Nevsun share “ignore[s] the fundamental value of Nevsun and its assets.” The company advised shareholders on Thursday not to take any action on Lundin’s hostile bid until the board of directors makes a formal recommendation.

Inkster says Lundin’s primary point of interest is Serbia’s Timok copper and gold operation, despite the potential risks involved with inheriting the Bisha copper and zinc mine in Eritrea. Nevsun’s CEO Peter Kukielski said Timok’s upper zone net asset value could reach $1.82 billion, according to a pre-feasibility study released in March.

“We’ve been interested in Timok for a number of years,” she told BNN Bloomberg. “In terms of the deal, total, it’s a very small percentage of the value of the deal. So, we were really focused on Serbia. We felt that there were better owners for Bisha, but we need to get in there and have a look and see what kind of value Lundin Mining can add.”

The Eritrean operation comes with an ongoing lawsuit involving six workers who say they were forced labourers at Bisha between 2008 and 2012. Nevsun filed an appeal in January that the case not be allowed to proceed to Canada’s Supreme Court.

Inkster identified the case as an issue to be monitored, but one that Lundin has already taken into account.

“I don’t think anybody would want to have that on their agenda, would they?” Inkster told BNN Bloomberg. “But we’ve assessed that. We’ve priced that into our bid, and we are prepared to deal with it.”

- With files from Bloomberg News and Reuters