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BHP Faces Deadline in $43 Billion Anglo American Takeover Bid

BHP Decides: Improve Offer or Pause Pursuit for Six Months

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

BHP Group, the world’s largest miner, is currently facing a crucial decision regarding its $43 billion pursuit of Anglo American Plc. The company must make a decision by 5 pm London time on Wednesday, either to formally extend an offer or step back for six months as per UK takeover regulations.

This corporate drama began with BHP’s plan to reshape both companies by first encouraging Anglo to divest its South African platinum and iron ore businesses before proceeding with a takeover. The aim is to strengthen BHP’s portfolio, particularly in copper, where Anglo’s assets are highly coveted in the industry. If successful, this acquisition would mark the biggest deal in the sector in over a decade and position BHP as the top global copper producer, controlling about 10% of the worldwide supply.

However, BHP’s proposals have been met with resistance. Anglo American has already rejected two non-binding offers from BHP, criticizing them for undervaluing the company and being overly complex. In response, Anglo CEO Duncan Wanblad rolled out a counter-restructuring plan that involves exiting the platinum, diamond, and coal sectors and scaling down an unpopular fertilizer project. This move mirrors some aspects of BHP’s initial suggestions, particularly the spin-off of the platinum business, hinting at possible common ground despite the current standoff.

With the deadline approaching, BHP finds itself in a precarious position. The company is considering presenting an enhanced proposal to sway Anglo and its shareholders. However, it is wary of making a bid on its own, particularly without any involvement from Anglo’s board. This cautious approach is partly due to BHP’s desire to avoid a hostile takeover, which would not allow for proper evaluation and could alienate its own shareholders, who prefer prudent investment strategies.

Anglo could theoretically ask for an extension to the deadline, but indications suggest that this is unlikely. Shareholder reactions have been mixed. While some have voiced support for Anglo’s independent restructuring plan, the two largest stakeholders, BlackRock Inc. and South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., holding a combined 18% of Anglo’s stock, have not publicly disclosed their preferences. Additionally, activist investor Elliott Investment Management has acquired a stake in Anglo and is assessing its position, further complicating the situation.

From BHP’s perspective, the stakes are high. If Anglo successfully streamlines and enhances its value, any future takeover attempt could be significantly more costly. Hugh Dive, chief investment officer of Atlas Funds Management in Sydney, which holds BHP shares, highlighted this concern, noting that removing risks now could lead to a substantially higher price tag later.

As discussions continue, the sentiment among some of Anglo’s major shareholders suggests a cautious openness to both management visions. The restructuring could make Anglo a more streamlined and attractive entity, potentially drawing interest from other major players like Rio Tinto Group and Glencore Plc in the future. However, for now, the consensus is that neither proposal from BHP nor Anglo’s restructuring plan clearly outshines the other.

As the clock ticks down, BHP must weigh its options carefully. The decision to either proceed with a revised offer or walk away will not only affect its strategic positioning but also have broader implications for the global mining industry, influencing how companies strategize around acquisitions, commodity focus, and shareholder relations in an increasingly competitive and resource-constrained environment.

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