Exxaro sharpens M&A focus after copper mine loss to China

Exxaro Resources Chief Executive Nombasa Tsengwa is strengthening the South African coal producer’s diversification strategy after failing to acquire new mining and energy assets.

copper mine

The Johannesburg-based company was shortlisted to buy a copper mine in Botswana last year but was eventually outbid by China Minmetals, which bought the Khoemacau project for $1.9 billion.

“These copper deposits are extremely difficult to mine,” Zengwa said in an interview on the sidelines of the Indaba Mining Show in Cape Town. “The Chinese team beat us in the game.”

Exxaro was founded in 2006 with some of its coal, zinc and titanium assets spun out of a unit of Anglo American and began diversifying more than a decade ago. The company has built wind farms and is exploring other clean energy projects as South Africa moves away from coal and companies seek to reduce their reliance on intermittent power from state utility Eskom Holdings.

Exxaro’s shares have fallen 13% this year in Johannesburg as prices for the most polluting fossil fuels plummeted.

Tsengwa said coal’s future seemed secure for up to 10 years but became uncertain after that. The CEO won’t rush the process, though, as Exxaro looks for entry into additional energy assets and metals critical to the green transition.

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“We’re not going crazy with a goal,” she said.

Exxaro was considering a bid in 2022 for BTE Renewables, a company with solar and wind projects, people familiar with the matter said at the time. Engie SA and private equity firm Meridiam SAS acquired the company in a $1 billion deal.

Tsengwa said companies with a pipeline of projects and high growth potential were preferable to owning existing generation assets. The CEO said a unique balance is required given the various targets, from energy to minerals.

“The financing story and the cost of risk are completely different,” she said.

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