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Barrick outbids Chinese company for Australian copper producer

Barrick Gold Corp., the world's biggest gold company, agreed to buy copper producer Equinox Minerals Ltd. for $7.69 billion in cash, trumping an offer from China's Minmetals Resources Ltd.

Investors in Equinox will get $8.56 for each share, Toronto-based Barrick said Monday in a statement. The offer is 17 percent more than Perth, Australia-based Equinox's average share price over the last 20 days of trading.

Buying Equinox would further expand Barrick's copper output by giving it control of the Lumwana mine in Zambia and Saudi Arabia's biggest deposit of the metal. Mining companies are competing to secure copper assets after a dearth of new projects and demand from China drove prices to a record this year.

Barrick also said the deal will position Barrick with significant production growth potential in Chile, a country with some of the world's most promising copper-producing regions.

Barrick's offer is the latest of copper-related takeover bids this year. On Feb. 28, Equinox made an unsolicited offer for Lundin. Toronto-based Lundin agreed Jan. 12 to be acquired for $4.31 billion by Inmet Mining Corp., another Canadian copper producer.

"This is a unique situation," Barrick Chief Executive Officer Aaron Regent said on a conference call. "It's very rare that assets like this come on the market."

The deal would be the second-largest acquisition by Barrick, after its $10.2 billion purchase of Placer Dome Inc. in 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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