LONDON (Reuters) - ENRC ENRC.L, one of the largest London-listed mining groups, is considering options to boost its value that include a possible split of its international arm, comprising its mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from its core Kazakh assets.
Britain’s Sunday Times reported that ENRC, which has been at the centre of high-profile corporate governance rows in the past two years, is discussing plans to put the international division into a new London-listed company, and hand the shares to current investors.
ENRC said in a statement on Sunday that it was “determined to deliver value to its shareholders and continued to review all methods to achieve this, including acquisitions, joint ventures and spin-offs”.
The miner, whose largest shareholders are its three founding investors, its rival Kazakhmys (KAZ.L) and the Kazakh state, added: “Whilst the company continues to evaluate various options, no decision has been made.”
Credit Suisse CSGN.VX and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) are advising ENRC on its options and the possible split.
ENRC has long traded at a discount to the UK mining sector, not least because of its controversial 2010 purchase of a Congolese copper operation expropriated from rival First Quantum (FM.TO).
That was followed by a boardroom spat that pitted the founding shareholders against some directors.
One source familiar with the situation said carving off the international arm was one of several options on the table to close what key shareholders feel is an unfair valuation gap with the sector and to ensure billions spent on acquisitions are reflected in its share value.
But the source added it was too soon to say whether a demerger would be the preferred option.
ENRC is the largest iron ore mining and processing enterprise in Kazakhstan, where it employs 65,000 people, and ferroalloys still make up the largest slice of its profit.
But it has diversified aggressively outside its original Kazakh and ferroalloy business since 2008. It has snapped up assets in Brazil, Congo, Zambia and Mozambique, where, for example, its projects sit near those owned by Riversdale, the coal miner bought by Rio Tinto (RIO.L) in a $4 billion deal.
Analysts have long said governance concerns have meant these assets - and others including development projects in Mali, South Africa and Zimbabwe - have effectively been undervalued.
Key to the timing of discussions over a spin-off is a $1.25 billion settlement with First Quantum earlier this year, which ended the long-running dispute over the ownership of the Kolwezi project in Congo.
The demerger would be the largest corporate split in years, and comes as cash-rich companies seek ways of protecting themselves from unwanted predators, while potentially creating value for shareholders.
Additional reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and Anthony Barker