US silver heavyweight Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) dropped a bombshell on the Canadian gold sector this week with a whopper of an offer for Aurizon Mines (AMEX:AZK,TSX:ARZ), which operates the Casa Berardi mine in Quebec.
As mining investors jostled for seats in packed ballrooms at this year's PDAC event in Toronto, Hecla announced it would pay C$796 million for Aurizon, just one month after the Vancouver-based company rejected a hostile offer from fellow Canadian miner Alamos Gold (NYSE:AGI,TSX:AGI).
Monday's offer values the company at $4.75 per share, 10 cents greater than the stock and cash bid extended by Alamos. The $1.6 billion combination would have 150 million ounces of proven and probable silver reserves and 2.2 million ounces of gold. The deal was given the go-ahead by Aurizon's board but must still be approved by two-thirds of Aurizon's shareholders at a meeting scheduled for May.
“Hecla and Aurizon together create a unique precious metals company with three long-life, high-grade, low-cost mines in some of the best mining jurisdictions in the world,” Hecla's president and CEO, Phil Baker Jr., said in a statement.Hecla has mines in several US states including Alaska and Idaho, as well as in Durango, Mexico. Aurizon's flagship Casa Berardi mine, in the Abitibi region of Quebec, produced 137,000 ounces of gold in 2012, and is expected to yield between 125,000 and 130,000 ounces this year. Hecla is expecting to produce between eight and nine million ounces of silver this year from its primary silver mines. Meanwhile Alamos Gold has waived the minimum tender conditions and extended its offer until March 19th. In a press release issued the same day as the Hecla bid, Alamos said the Hecla-Aurizon combination would result in $500 million in debt whereas the Alamos offer would involve no debt. The company notes that Hecla's debt financing is conditional upon the merger being approved by two-thirds of Aurizon shareholders, but points out that Alamos owns 16.1% of Aurizon shares and has been told that several large Aurizon shareholders do not support the Hecla bid. Furthermore, Alamos said that Hecla's debt financing terms dictate that Hecla would hedge at least $450 million of revenues from gold production, meaning Aurizon shareholders would not see any upside in the gold price. The Alamos offer would be unhedged.