LONDON Commodities trader Glencore (GLEN.L) (0805.HK) is considering making a 12 billion pound ($19.5 billion) takeover bid for ENRC ENRC.L, the Kazakh miner hit by a bitter boardroom battle, the Sunday Times reported.
Quoting a source with knowledge of the discussions, the newspaper said Glencore Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg had held talks in recent weeks with ENRC's three founders and key shareholders Alexander Mashkevitch, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov. The trio control some 45 percent of ENRC's shares.
"Both sides want to do it," the paper quoted an unidentified source with knowledge of the discussions as saying.
"They decided to park the talks until the Glencore listing, and come back to talk numbers. They will meet again in the next few weeks."
Glencore, the world's largest diversified commodities trader, has also held talks about a possible deal with the Kazakhstan government, which holds 12 percent of ENRC, the report added, citing a separate unidentified source.
ENRC, with a free float of less than 20 percent, has long been named as a potential target for Glencore.
The commodities trader has always had an opportunistic approach to deals and could be tempted by both ENRC's undervalued asset portfolio and the heavy fall in its shares, battered by a boardroom dispute over governance that has pitted its independent directors against its founders.
Two independent directors have already been ousted by top shareholders and at least one other is considering tendering his resignation, according to a source familiar with the matter last week.
ENRC, which trades at a hefty 15 percent discount to the sector on a P/E basis, is down almost 30 percent this year and hit 741 pence on Friday, its lowest level since August 2009. At that level the company would be worth around 9.5 billion pounds.
But one industry source said it was simply too soon for Glencore to be seriously considering a move on a company as large as ENRC. It would have had to disclose plans in its listing prospectus and would also struggle to raise money to pay for the deal, as it cannot issue new shares for six months.
Glencore shares are still trading "under water," or below their issue price of 530 pence.
"It's the nature of the industry, everyone talks to everyone," the source said on Sunday, dismissing the talks between Glasenberg and ENRC's founders as business as usual.
Swiss-based Glencore listed on the London stock exchange in May in a record-breaking market debut.
An ENRC spokeswoman declined to comment on the report when contacted by Reuters. Glencore declined to comment.
Industry analysts have suggested Glencore could take a stake in ENRC rather than buy the entire company, potentially buying shares owned by rival Kazakhmys (KAZ.L), which has said it is considering all options for its 26 percent stake.
Glencore reports maiden first-quarter earnings on June 14.
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