Copper producers venture overseas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am

EPI (Holdings), a nonferrous metal producer, said it would team up with Jiangxi Copper, the country's largest integrated producer of the metal, to invest in overseas copper mines.

The two companies were looking at some potential copper mines in South America, Africa and the Philippines as supply in the mainland was tight, chairman and chief executive Joseph Wong Chi-wing said.

'A mine with an estimated five million tonnes of copper reserves in South America is a more mature one; we're targeting to sign a memorandum of understanding with local partners in regard of the investment by the end of this year,' Mr Wong said, without giving other details.

The company, formerly Great Wall Cybertech, last November set up a copper smelting plant in Qingyuan, Guangdong province, with Jiangxi Copper.

As a Hong Kong-based company, EPI had more flexibility in overseas investment compared with state-owned Jiangxi Copper, Mr Wong said.

Any overseas deal could further strengthen their strategic relationship, he added.

'EPI could act as a screener to pick potential deals and lead preliminary negotiations. If the projects are practical, then [we'd] invite Jiangxi Copper to participate,' said Mr Wong.

'Jiangxi Copper has the expertise in exploration, smelting and processing, so having its participation could largely reduce our investment risks.'

EPI is also exploring projects in other metals including iron, zinc, aluminium and gold to further expand its supply chain.

The company might sign a framework agreement with a state-owned firm to invest in an iron ore mine with more than 100 million tonnes of reserves by the end of this year.

EPI will have a 40 per cent to 50 per cent stake in the venture and the investment would be similar to the joint project with Daye Nonferrous Metal.