Private equity considers Northparkes purchase

Private equity company KKR & Co. is considering a bid for Rio Tinto's majority stake in Northparkes copper-gold mine.

Earlier this month Australian Mining reported Rio had tasked Macquarie Group with finding a buyer for its 80 per cent stake in the New South Wales operation.

Rio is yet to confirm that Northparkes is for sale.

Rio Tinto last year said Northparkes was valued at US$405 million and expect there to be enough resources to continue mining for at least another decade.

Northparkes is a jointly owned operation between Japan based Sumitomo who holds a 20 per cent stake.

According to the Wall Street Journal KKR is examining a bid ahead of a deadline in mid-May for initial offers.

Rio Tinto has put a number of its assets up for sale in an effort to cut almost $5 billion in costs from the company.

Other Rio operations reported to be going under the hammer include Hunter Valley Operations, Mount Thorley/Warkworth, and Bengalla.

The company’s diamonds unit and the Pacific Aluminium division that manages about a dozen aluminum assets are also being sold.

Late last month Commonwealth Bank analysts said Rio had the potential to realise US$13.5 billion from asset sales, and selling its 80 per cent stake in Northparkes could raise as much as US$1 billion.

In 2000 the company acquired Northparkes, successfully outbidding Anglo American to purchase the operation for AUD$3.5 billion from North Ltd.

The majority of Northparkes’ copper concentrate is exported to Japan, China and India.

When asked about the reports KKR responded saying “it does not comment on market speculation”.

Rio Tinto was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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