* Audley Capital to buy Talvivaara’s nickel mine
* About 700 jobs could be saved
* Analyst says listed parent company likely to file for bankruptcy (Adds analyst, government comment, background)
By Anna Ercanbrack
HELSINKI, March 12 (Reuters) - British investment firm Audley Capital Advisors said on Thursday it has signed a conditional agreement to buy the key assets of nickel miner Talvivaara from its bankruptcy estate, aiming to bring the troubled mine in northern Finland back to life.
Talvivaara’s subsidiary, which owns the company’s mining assets, applied for bankruptcy protection last year following a drop in nickel prices, repeated production disruptions and environmental damage.
According to the agreement, a consortium led by Audley will take an 85 percent stake in the subsidiary, while the Finnish government will own 15 percent.
The price of the deal was not disclosed, but Finland said the owners are planning to inject about 200 million euros ($212 million) to restart the mine in the north of the country.
However, the restructuring of the listed parent company Talvivaaran Kaivososakeyhtio Oyj is continuing, with a March 13 deadline for a debt restructuring proposal.
“With the only asset of the company sold, the probability of (listed) Talvivaara going bankrupt is 90 percent. That company is no longer viable,” said Nordnet’s equity strategist Jukka Oksaharju.
“At Nordnet alone we have about 15 000 investors who have put money into Talvivaara shares. They will lose it all in a bankruptcy,” Oksaharju added.
He said it also looked as though the Finnish government was keen to bring in new management to Talvivaara.
“There’s no mention of (CEO) Pekka Pera in the new management team,” he said.
Last year, prosecutors instigated charges against four Talvivaara executives, including chief executive and founder Pera, over a 2012 leak which raised uranium and metals levels in nearby lakes and rivers.
The parent, however, said in statement it would start discussions and could still have a future role in the mine.
The new mining company will be headed by Audley’s John MacKenzie, a previous chief executive at Anglo American’s copper business.
Talvivaara’s nickel mine was aiming to become Europe’s biggest by pioneering an extraction process called bioheapleaching, but repeated production problems were compounded when the mine leaked waste water.
The government cautioned that major uncertainties remained concerning closing the Audley deal, including regulatory permits that must be obtained and the financial arrangements.
But it considered the news encouraging from an employment viewpoint. A permanent closure at the mine -- a large regional employer -- would mean some 700 people will lose their jobs.
The deal is expected to close during the summer of 2015.
$1 = 0.9435 euros Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Terje Solsvik, editing by David Evans