LONDON/KINSHASA Glencore has increased its hold on Democratic Republic of Congo's copper and cobalt resources by buying the remaining stake in the Mutanda mine from resource group Fleurette and increasing its share in Katanga for a total of $960 million.
Company statements said Glencore now owns 100 percent of the Mutanda mine and about 86 percent of Toronto-listed Katanga Mining Limited.
Taking into account loans it had made to Fleurette, Glencore is paying $534 million in net cash for the assets.
Copper and cobalt are among the commodity markets with the strongest fundamentals.
The copper market faces a possible supply shortfall as some of the world's best assets become depleted and cobalt, used in batteries, faces the prospect of a supply surge from electric vehicle demand.
Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, senior adviser to Fleurette, said the group was committed to Congo, where it has operated for two decades, but it was the right time to sell its Mutanda and Katanga assets.
"With the mine now operating at full capacity, we feel now is the right time to exit our investment and to re-invest in further brown and greenfield opportunities," he said.
Mutanda has been operating at more than 200,000 tonnes of copper per year.
In addition to selling its 31 percent stake in Mutanda for $922 million, Fleurette said it also sold to Glencore its remaining 11.05 percent shareholding in Katanga for $38 million.
Katanga announced an 18-month suspension of operations in 2015, when it was producing around 113,000 tonnes of copper, and has been undergoing upgrades aimed at cutting costs.
Glencore said the mine complex had the potential to become Africa's largest copper producer and the world's largest cobalt producer.
Many mining companies are keen to acquire good quality copper assets, but have hesitated to move into Democratic Republic of Congo because of political risk.
Analyst Paul Gait of Bernstein said Glencore had done well to consolidate a leading position in Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We have long held that the DRC will play a critical role in supplying the world’s future demand for both copper and cobalt," he said.
"The first mover advantage here will be key. Glencore is prepared to invest in the DRC and will reap the rewards that accrue from being prepared to do so."
Glencore's shares closed 2.5 percent higher in London.
(Additional reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman and Susan Thomas)