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Miner WMC soars on takeover talk

Hugh Morgan
WMC chief executive Hugh Morgan said recently the company had 'never been in better shape'  

By staff reporters

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Shares in Australian miner WMC touched a record high Thursday on speculation that Anglo American plc is about to launch a $6.7 billion (A$13 billion) takeover bid.

WMC is one of the world's largest nickel producers and is also a significant copper and alumina producer.

Its shares jumped almost 10 percent to touch a record A$10.10, before closing at $9.98, a gain of 77 cents or 8.36 percent.

WMC has frequently been mentioned as a takeover target for South African-based Anglo American, the world's biggest mining house, either acting alone or jointly with aluminium giant Alcoa.

An unsourced report in the Sydney Morning Herald said a bid for WMC at A$12 a share could be "imminent", following recent visits to South Africa by WMC chief executive Hugh Morgan.

Industry consolidation continues

Morgan has said previously that WMC is an attractive takeover target as the mining industry continues to consolidate.

Australia's largest mining house, BHP, was keen to buy it last year but the parties failed to agree on price.

BHP is set to conclude its own merger with Billiton, which analysts say could see it revisit a possible WMC acquisition.

A spokeswoman for WMC dismissed the reports Thursday night as market speculation and said there was nothing that WMC might say "in the foreseeable future."

Speculation waxes and wanes

"This speculation has waxed and waned over the past year. What is true is that everyone in the mining industry is talking to everybody else all the time," WMC's Ursula McGinnes said.

Alcoa is already a partner with WMC in their Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals (AWAC) business.

Morgan said in April that WMC had "never been in better shape".

Discussing its nickel assets, he said then that price volatility was an ongoing drawback and the industry needed to look at how it operated. He said this could lead to "new alliances, ( and) rationalisation of some uneconomic production".

• Anglo American

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