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An employee works with a reel of copper cable at a factory in China. (ALY SONG/ALY SONG/REUTERS)
An employee works with a reel of copper cable at a factory in China. (ALY SONG/ALY SONG/REUTERS)

Analysts sing praises of First Quantum Add to ...

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. offered up some details on its planned copper production growth and the prospects are so good that some analysts are expecting a big jump in its share price -- or even a takeover.

The company expects to hit production of 470,000 tonnes a year by 2015, which would come out of its already producing mines and those currently under construction. Add in development projects like Sentinel in Zambia and Haquira in Peru, and an incremental 500,000 tonnes per year is possible.

To get the newer development projects up and running, First Quantum has allocated about $2-billion (U.S.) for capital expenditures over the next few years. About half of this budget will go to the Sentinel project.

Following the production update, BMO analyst David Radclyffe called First Quantum "one of the strongest mid-term growth stories in copper, albeit this assumes delivery of one new project each year." BMO has only Southern Copper Corp. beating First Quantum in production growth before 2015.

Before the new estimates were even out, TD analyst Greg Barnes went so far as to call the company "the next copper major." "First Quantum's copper growth profile is one of the most attractive in the global mining sector - both for investors and potential acquirers," he wrote in a note to clients.

"We believe that First Quantum's suite of large copper projects, its commanding position on the Zambian copper belt and its diversified asset base could move it to the top of the acquisition target list for any major mining company or state mining company seeking to position itself as a significant participant in the copper market," he added.

Now contrast that with Quadra FNX , which took a big hit this week when management announced much lower production targets. The company said it expects to produce about 240 million pounds of copper in 2011, just 9 per cent more than the 220 million pounds produced in 2010. Plus, the outlook is well below the 300 million pounds for 2011 predicted by the company last spring.

Quadra's stock has fallen about 15 per cent this week.

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