BHP and Forrest may be better together on nickel play (Australian Financial Review – July 28, 2021)

BHP might have trumped Andrew Forrest’s bid for a Canadian nickel miner, but there’s no reason the pair can’t form a partnership on this project.

The prospect of iron ore titans Andrew Forrest and BHP duking it out over a Canadian nickel junior is obviously delicious. But the rational move is for the old foes to get into bed together on what both clearly see as a great opportunity amid a broader rush for battery minerals.

BHP announced on Tuesday night a $C325 million ($351 million) bid for Noront, which has a highly rated nickel project called Eagle’s Nest in Ontario’s Ring of Fire region (how Game of Thrones is that?) some 1200 kilometres north of Toronto.

The Big Australian’s bid, which has the support of the Noront executive team (which owns 9.9 per cent of the company), is pitched at a 75 per cent premium to the takeover bid by Forrest’s Wyloo Metals in May.

That offer, tellingly, didn’t get management support and indeed was actively resisted by the Noront team, who are by all reports a well-respected group of junior mining and exploration veterans.

Team Forrest is considering its response to BHP but given Forrest has his foot on a 37.5 per cent stake, all roads to ownership go through him. And the Wyloo team can be happy with their efforts so far given Noront shares have leapt more than threefold since Wyloo bought in last December, delivering a paper profit of about $100 million.

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