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Glencore tightens grip on zinc through deal with Canada's Trevali

[LONDON] Miner-trader Glencore has increased its control of core commodity zinc through a deal with Canada's Trevali in which it is selling shares in two mines and helping to create the first pure zinc company with wide geographical reach.

Glencore's share price has risen around 13 per cent this year, adding to gains of more than 200 per cent in 2016 when it rebounded from a commodities price crash.

Its CEO Ivan Glasenberg has said it is well-placed for deals, which analysts say are as likely to involve commodity offtake or tactical disposals as acquisitions.

Through a US$400 million transaction, announced late on Monday, Glencore is selling 80 per cent and 90 per cent stakes respectively in a mine in Namibia and another in Burkina Faso to Trevali with which it has a long-standing relationship.

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Glencore will also increase its direct holding in Trevali from 4 per cent to 25 per cent and gets two seats on the company's board, compared with one before, while securing exclusive rights to market Trevali's zinc. "We are excited to form part of this unique global zinc vehicle, providing pure zinc exposure across a wide geographic footprint," Daniel Mate, Glencore's head of zinc marketing, said in a statement.

Mark Cruise, CEO of Trevali, said acquiring Rosh Pinah in Namibia and Perkoa in Burkina Faso was "a unique opportunity for Trevali shareholders".

It sets the stage for "a multi-asset, low-cost global zinc producer," whose production will double to approximately £410 million per year. In addition to the African assets, it has mines in Peru and Canada.

The total cost of US$400 million comprises US$244 million in cash, with the rest paid by Trevali issuing shares and giving Glencore US$30 million to settle an outstanding debt.

Forecasters remain positive about zinc, but wary of strong gains after the metal, used for galvanising iron or steel, soared 60 per cent last year.

That rally was spurred by Glencore's decision to limit supply and Glasenberg has said he would only increase output when to do so would not depress prices. "If you were truly bullish on zinc and those assets, you wouldn't let them go, you wouldn't decrease your zinc exposure," Ben Davis, an analyst at Liberum said of this week's deal. "But maybe they see more value in the (zinc) offtake than they do in the industrial side." HSBC in a note said the "very small transaction" for Glencore gave Trevali critical mass and created "a new zinc play on the market".