Former Xstrata PLC chief executive Mick Davis has reportedly raised $5.6 billion for his mining fund X2 Resources.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Davis plans to start deploying cash at a time of slumping mineral prices when many companies may be willing to sell.
People familiar with his plans told The Wall Street Journal that X2 has closed itself to new investors after having raised cash from sovereign-wealth funds, pension funds and private-equity firms such as TPG Capital.
Potential acquisition targets include assets held by mining giants such as Rio Tinto PLC, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American PLC, and X2 has held talks with all three companies, one of the people said. The companies declined to comment.
X2’s emergence gives the mining industry something its executives and observers have long anticipated: a deal-savvy operator armed with a wad of cash and looking for acquisitions in an arena stricken by collapsing prices for commodities, such as iron ore.
Davis formed X2 in London in September 2013, about four months after taking part in the largest mining deal: the $29.5 billion Glencore PLC acquisition of Xstrata. Davis began raising money soon after he and several top lieutenants left Glencore.
“We continue to carefully review a number of opportunities in the sector in detail,” Davis said in a statement. “The long-term nature of our strategy provides us with the flexibility to target those opportunities where we see the greatest potential for value creation.”
X2 has $4 billion in so-called committed capital, which it can immediately deploy for deals, according to a person familiar with the terms. The remaining $1.6 billion in capital is conditional upon certain undisclosed requirements by the firm’s investors, the person said.
Some experts say Davis could find it hard to find enough solid mining assets for sale. Big miners are unlikely to dispose of quality mines, and X2 will have to compete with giants such as Glencore for other attractive deals. Davis’s backers say he put together a world-class portfolio at Xstrata and can do it again at X2.
In addition to assets at major miners, X2 is also looking at midtier miners in financial distress and junior mining outfits near production, according to the person familiar with the fund’s plans. It is looking at commodities such as copper, zinc and nickel, among others, in regions such as Latin America, the U.S. and Africa, the person said. An advisory board, whose members have committed at least $500 million apiece, will review the firm’s investment decisions.
The launch of X2’s fund comes during a long-running lull in deal-making activity in the mining industry, which is struggling as demand in China and elsewhere wanes.
Deal volume declined 23 percent to 544 in 2014 from the previous year, marking the fourth straight year of declining volume, according to consultants Ernst & Young LLP. The valuation of deals plunged even more, sliding 49 percent last year to $44.6 billion. Megadeals have been even more scarce, with just 11 deals of more than $1 billion in 2014, down from 18 in 2013, Ernst & Young reported.