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Copper wire (Dmitry Gool/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Copper wire (Dmitry Gool/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Stock to watch: Is First Quantum in play? Add to ...

First Quantum Minerals Ltd.

Thursday’s closing price: $20.37 a share, down 43 cents

52-week trading range: $16.46 - $25 a share

Annual dividend: 0.188 cents a share for a yield of 0.92 per cent.

Analysts’ rating: There were 12 buys, 13 holds and 2 sells, according to Bloomberg data. Target prices ranged from $20.50 to $37 a share.

Recent history: The stock of the Vancouver-based copper producer has gone sideways this year, but it has been a bumpy ride. Against a backdrop of fairly steady copper prices, shares of the miner are up 2.5 per cent this year. There was euphoria in January when First Quantum sold its troubled operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kazakhstani miner Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. for $1.25-billion. Its stock has dipped on fears about a slowing Chinese economy, and risen on takeover speculation. Media reports earlier this year cited Rio Tinto PLC, Glencore International PLC and Anglo American PLC among potential suitors.

Outlook: First Quantum is back in the spotlight again, but this time as an acquisitor. On Wednesday, Inmet Mining Corp. said it rejected First Quantum’s unsolicited cash-and-stock bid of $70 a share and earlier one at $62.50 a share. “Inmet is in play ... and anybody can bid on Inmet,” said Bill Harris, a portfolio manager with Avenue Investment Management Inc. “It would have to be the guys like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton in our world.... The wild card is state mining companies that can come in and pay a higher price.”

Inmet has a “difficult [copper] project in Panama,” and First Quantum’s strong management team is probably one that can bring it to production on time and on budget, said Mr. Harris, who bought the miner’s stock last summer and sold half of his position recently. “But First Quantum has now exposed itself [with its bid for Inmet]. Is First Quantum in play? That is out there at the moment in the stock market.”

He would not buy First Quantum stock for takeover potential because he can’t see why anyone would bid for the copper miner. Its strength is its people who want to keep running the company their way, he said. “It’s a public company, and you can buy it.... But they can walk out the door and start a new company tomorrow.”

While a big fan of First Quantum, Mr. Harris would not buy its shares at the current price. He would wait for a better opportunity that could come should copper prices take a tumble. “We would rather see First Quantum shares drop, and if we can buy it under $20 a share, that is the way we would be doing it,” he said. “We think it is worth $30 [a share] over time.”

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