Feb 21, 2023
Teck's mining breakup sets the scene for copper takeovers
The heart of coal business spinoff is about giving our investors a choice: Teck Resources CEO
Teck Resources Ltd.’s move to split its metals and coal operations is likely to attract the attention of some of the world’s biggest mining companies as the industry looks to consolidate amid the energy transition.
The Canadian company confirmed Tuesday that it plans a spinoff that will eventually see Teck split into two independent publicly listed companies: Teck Metals Corp will focus on minerals such as copper, and Elk Valley Resources Ltd., which will operate the metallurgical coal assets.
The move almost certainly makes Teck Metals a takeover target when big mining companies are on the hunt for copper as demand for the wiring metal accelerates and a global shortfall looms. BHP Group, Rio Tinto Group and Glencore Plc are actively looking to grow their copper exposure and have been longtime admirers of Teck’s assets across the Americas, according to people familiar with the situation.
Teck owns four copper mines in South America and Canada that produced 270,000 metric tons last year. The company expects to double copper output after the second phase of its Quebrada Blanca project in Chile ramps up to full capacity by the end of this year.
Still, the difficulty for any potential suitor for Teck’s copper assets will be the new structure, post-breakup, which funnels royalties from a separated coal business to the base metals operations, as well as a six-year phase-out of a dual-class share structure, under which Canada’s Keevil family currently controls the company.
“Adding Teck Metals would position any major miner as a dominant player in base metals,” Citi analyst Alexander Hacking in a Tuesday note. “That said, six years can be a long time in equity markets and a lot could change between now and then.”
For its part, Teck isn’t looking to pursue its own takeovers with the new structure.
“M&A is not part of the core strategy for Teck Metals at this point in time,” Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Price said in a Tuesday interview.
Moving away from the dual-class share structure is a “positive,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Sam Crittenden said in a note. “However, it will take several years and anyone expecting a more immediate change may be disappointed.”
Canada’s Keevil family, which has been involved with the firm for six decades, has long controlled Teck through majority ownership of Class A shares, which carry more voting control than the company’s Class B shares. Those Class A shares are the ones getting phased out. Until then, the Keevil family remains in control.