Rare Earths

Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths Ends Merger Talks With US Miner

 

Confidential talks between Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths and US-based MP Materials Corp have ended without a deal, the Aussie miner said on Monday.

Industry sources noted that a merger or partnership transaction would have been difficult for both sides to agree on value, partly because rare earths prices have dropped sharply due to a slowdown in China’s economy.

Lynas is the world’s biggest producer of rare earths outside of China, and MP is the biggest in the United States. Their talks came as Western nations seek to diversify supply chains for the magnetic metals that are used in everything from wind turbines to electric vehicles to missiles.

 

ALSO SEE: Japan Warns Trump: ‘Don’t Do a Deal With China If You Win’

 

China is the world’s top rare earths consumer and producer, controlling some 87% of global rare earths refining capacity, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Lynas confirms it has held confidential discussions with MP Materials Corp regarding a potential transaction, however, these discussions are not ongoing,” it said in a release to Australia’s securities exchange.

Lynas has been constructing a processing plant in Kalgoorlie in the middle of Western Australia to add to its refining operations in Malaysia and the US, where it is building processing facilities in Texas supported by the Department of Defence.

MP processes rock that it extracts from its Mountain Pass mine in California into rare earths concentrate that is shipped to China for refining. It has been struggling to crack the difficult technology to refine its own material for some time.

China in December banned the export of technology to make rare earth magnets adding it to a ban already in place on technology to extract and separate the critical materials.

“I wouldn’t think there is a whole lot of synergies out of that, just consolidating supply,” Argo Investments portfolio manager Andy Foster said of a potential tie-up between Lynas and MP.

“As a shareholder, what’s the real benefit? (Lynas) has got one of the best rare earths deposits in the world. I get the consolidation argument but I’m not sure about any strategic value transfer.”

 

Doubts on what Lynas would get from merger

One source with direct knowledge of the proposal said that general contours of a deal would have involved Lynas de-listing in Australia and MP keeping its New York Stock Exchange listing, and that any deal was aimed for the first quarter.

But industry sources questioned what Lynas, which already has a strong customer base in Japan and with highly specialised technology, would get from the deal, making it hard to agree on value. Anti-trust regulation would also be a major hurdle, they said, even as Western countries try to reduce China’s dominance.

In the statement, Lynas said it was building its growth organically and looking to build scale. Its second-quarter revenue fell sharply, missing analysts’ estimates, hurt by low prices for its main product Neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr).

The rare earth miner has currently market capitalisation of about $3.55 billion, while its New-York listed peer is valued at $3.06 billion. Shares in MP had closed up 6.4% on Friday while Lynas shares traded 1.1% lower on Monday morning.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

ALSO SEE:

 

In New Comic, China Signals ‘Foreign Threat’ to its Rare Earths

 

China Curbs The Export of Rare Earths Processing Technology

 

Cosmic Metal Could Break China’s Rare Earths Grip – Yahoo

 

Rare Earths Seen As a Factor in China-Vietnam Rail Link Talks

 

China to Scrutinise Rare Earth Outflows as Exports Rise

 

China Turns Focus on Rare Earths Sector Amid Trade War

 

China Metal Curbs, Rare Earths Risks Fuel Hunt For Safe Sources

 

Curbs on Chipmaking Metals ‘Just The Beginning’, China Warns

 

Western Firms Struggling to Break China’s Grip on Rare Earths

 

 

Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.

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