DEALTALK-Buyers scarce as major miners carve out unwanted assets

Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:44am EDT
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* Miners under pressure to focus on core assets

* No quick fix seen for assets in problem commodities

* Some sales seen put on ice, alternatives sought

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

LONDON, March 18 (Reuters) - The "for sale" signs which have been hanging for months over Rio Tinto aluminium assets and its diamond mines are symptomatic of a bigger mining industry issue.

The world's biggest miners, under pressure from investors to aggressively refocus sprawling portfolios, tackle debt and, potentially, return cash, have lined up billions of dollars of unwanted assets for sale, from aluminium smelters to nickel mines.

Trouble is, buyers are thin on the ground.

This is the case particularly for the unloved assets at the top of miners' for-sale lists. Leading producers are retrenching, smaller "juniors" are strapped for cash and even once-voratious Chinese buyers are becoming harder to please.

"There is a missing buyer universe. The mid-caps got consumed in the last deal boom and the juniors can't get finance," one senior industry adviser said.   Continued...