The world's largest mining group, BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) , has pulled plans to sell its Nickel West business in Australia after bids failed to meet its asking price, but indicated it was still open to offers for an operation it described as non-core.
BHP put Nickel West up for sale in May, with analysts pointing to a likely internal price expectation of between A$500 million and A$800 million ($436 million and $697.2 million). But nickel prices have since tumbled by more than a quarter, undermining the asset's valuation.
"The preferred option, the sale of the business, has not been achieved on an acceptable basis," said BHP on Wednesday, Nov. 12. "At this time, Nickel West will remain in the BHP Billiton portfolio as a non-core asset and the company will continue to operate the business to realize its full value."
The failure to sell West Australia-based Nickel West casts the operator of the Mount Keith, Cliffs and Leinster mines into a corporate limbo as BHP prepares to split itself in two, creating a new company to house second-tier assets. BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie said in August that Nickel West needed an owner "much more committed to the nickel business" and that the operation was "neither a good fit with BHP Billiton nor with NewCo."
BHP said in May that it was in talks with potential buyers of the operation. Glencore International plc CEO Ivan Glasenberg had earlier said he was considering an offer for the unit. China's largest nickel refiner, Jinchuan Group Ltd., was also reported to be interested in at least some of the assets.