News Archive

Canada to buy Kinder Morgan pipeline in bid to save project

OTTAWA/WINNIPEG (Reuters) – Canada will buy Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd’s (KML.TO) Trans Mountain pipeline for C$4.5 billion ($3.5 billion), the government said on Tuesday, in hopes of saving the project that faces formidable political and environmental opposition.

FILE PHOTO: Replacement pipe is stored near crude oil storage tanks at Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline terminal in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said purchasing the pipeline was the only way to ensure that a planned expansion could go ahead. Ottawa backs plans to boost capacity of the line to a Vancouver-area port so Canadian crude gets greater access to foreign markets.

The pipeline’s nationalization opens Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to political risk.

Kinder Morgan Canada gave Ottawa until May 31 to come up with reassurances it could press ahead with plans to more than double the capacity of the existing pipeline amid efforts by the province of British Columbia to block construction.

“When we are faced with an exceptional situation that puts jobs at risk, that puts our international reputation on the line, our government is prepared to take action,” Morneau told reporters.

He said the pipeline purchase provided the federal jurisdiction needed to overcome British Columbia’s opposition, but did not say how it could force the province to allow construction.

Although the federal government has taken stakes in struggling energy projects, Tuesday’s announcement marked the first time Ottawa has bought an entire pipeline. It said it does not intend to own the project for the long term.

The move drew immediate criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, and could hurt Trudeau’s popularity in the key British Columbia battleground at a 2019 federal election.

“This decision represents both a colossal failure of the Trudeau government to enforce the law of the land, and a massive, unnecessary financial burden on Canadian taxpayers,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation Federal Director Aaron Wudrick said in a statement.

The government will also offer federal loan guarantees to ensure construction of the expansion continues through the 2018 season as part of the deal with the company, a unit of Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI.N).

Morneau sidestepped questions about how Ottawa will deal with opposition from environmentalists and aboriginal groups, who cite the risk of a catastrophic spill.

“It’s a mess out there,” said a Calgary industry source not authorized to speak publicly. “Given it will be stuck in court for a while, I don’t think we will see this pipe built anytime soon.”

Morneau said more investment would be needed to complete the expansion, and stressed he felt the project should be returned to the private sector.

Canada’s oil sector has been stung in the past year as foreign energy companies retreated amid concerns about the environmental toll, high production costs and a risky regulatory regime.

The pipeline would give Canadian crude greater access to foreign markets.

“We have agreed to a fair price for our shareholders,” said Steve Kean, chief executive officer of Kinder Morgan Canada and Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI.N).

Kean did not say why he decided to sell rather than absorb the risk of further delays. Kinder Morgan Canada will continue to own the remaining assets, including crude storage, rail terminals and a condensate pipeline, and look to expand, he said.

“I think the transaction is a win-win. It’s actually better for Kinder Morgan than it is for Canada. They are getting a very good value,” said Paul Bloom at Bloom Investments Counsel Inc, which owns about 300,000 shares in Kinder Morgan.

“British Columbia isn’t a part of the deal and while a government buy (out) makes it more likely that the project will go through, it still doesn’t guarantee there won’t be more protests,” he said in an interview.

Additional reporting Leah Schnurr in Toronto and Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bangalore; Writing by Andrea Hopkins and David Ljunggren; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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Not enough time for tech customs solution to Brexit: Aston Martin

GAYDON, England (Reuters) – The boss of carmaker Aston Martin warned it was probably too late to roll out the kind of technology needed for the post-Brexit customs plan that is favoured by many British eurosceptics.

FILE PHOTO: Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, poses for a photograph next to the company’s new Vantage car in Gaydon, Britain November 20, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Chief Executive Andy Palmer told Reuters that getting the technology in place would cost millions of pounds and it seemed to be too late to do it in time for the end of a planned Brexit transition period that will run until December 2020.

“The time just doesn’t exist now,” Palmer said in an interview at the carmaker’s Gaydon plant in central England.

“You’ve got to get the interface with the government’s agencies, then you’ve got to implement it on your parts, and then you’ve got to get it out to your 10,000 suppliers from all around the world,” Palmer said. “It’s immense.”

Palmer said he could not say it would be impossible because it would depend on exactly what such arrangements would require.

Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU is likely to remain unclear at least until an EU leaders’ summit in October.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out staying in a customs union with the EU – the option favoured by many employers’ groups – and her government is split over two alternatives for a customs arrangement with the EU.

Brexit supporters pushing for the most independence from the bloc tend to favour a “maximum facilitation”, or “max fac”, option in which cameras and a trusted-trader system would be used to reduce delays and costs at the border.

Others in the government back a plan under which Britain would cooperate with Brussels more closely and collect tariffs on its behalf, so declarations are not required for goods crossing the EU-British border.

Earlier on Tuesday, manufacturing trade group EEF called on the government to abandon the “max fac” option, saying it was naive and a waste of money.

Last week, Britain’s most senior tax official said it could cost firms up to 20 billion pounds a year.

Asked about Aston Martin’s outlook, Palmer said he expected 2018 volumes to grow by about 20 percent to over 6,100 as James Bond’s favourite car brand pursues a turnaround plan designed to propel it to a stock market flotation as soon as this year.

The firm has pushed a U.S. sales drive in recent months and Palmer said it would be a negative if the administration of President Donald Trump hikes import tariffs to up to 25 percent following a trade investigation which was launched last week.

“If it happens, obviously it’s unwelcome,” he said. “We hope that common sense prevails.”

Reporting by Costas Pitas

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Delays and ‘poison pills’: team Trump runs out of road in NAFTA talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is running out of time to deliver a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) he promised for this year and people involved in the talks say the crunch is largely of his administration’s own making.

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen at Arlington National Cemetery as part of Memorial Day observance, Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Negotiators, industry lobbyists, trade experts and lawmakers briefed on the talks described how precious months passed before the U.S team presented its proposals and how the talks stalled because the demands far exceeded what Canada and Mexico had expected and Washington signaled no readiness to compromise.

In the end, an unusually tight timetable allowed little space to bridge differences on the core issues, such as U.S. and regional content requirements for the auto industry.

Talks started last August with a goal to conclude in just four months, but as a May 17 notification deadline to allow the current Republican-led U.S. Congress to approve a new agreement before year end passed, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer warned a deal was “nowhere near close.”


Up until a few weeks ago, Lighthizer thought Mexico faced the biggest time pressure to wrap up the talks before its July 1 presidential elections, a Mexican source close to the talks told Reuters.

In early May, however, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told Lighthizer in Washington that he would be able to negotiate a NAFTA agreement up until the Dec. 1 transition to a new government – even if an opposition candidate won.

Suddenly, it was the United States running against the looming congressional deadline, the Mexican source said.

The Trump administration’s negotiating goals submitted to Congress in July 2017 talked of shrinking trade deficits with Mexico and Canada and boosting U.S. auto production. (

In contrast, the U.S. neighbors saw the talks more as a “modernization” exercise, proposing, for example, chapters on digital trade that did not exist when NAFTA took effect in 1994.

Broadly, both were fine with the status quo, so when it took Washington two months to present specific demands the delay played into their hands.

“How can you launch talks to update a treaty and then make everyone wait months before you explain what you want,” asked one Canadian official briefed on the talks.

Lighthizer’s office said he was clear all along about aiming to “rebalance” NAFTA trade in U.S. favor.

“The United States has been very clear and specific from the start about what we hope to see in a new NAFTA and has worked at an unprecedented pace to negotiate a better deal for America,” the office’s spokesman said.

When Lighthizer’s team presented the demands in October, Canadian and Mexican officials said they amounted to surrendering decades of trade benefits, which they could not accept.

U.S. business groups labeled those demands “poison pills” that threatened to derail the talks and prompt Trump to quit the pact. The key ones were: a steep increase in regional automotive content requirements, a demand for half the value of North American vehicles to originate in the United States and a requirement to renegotiate the pact every five years.

All remain unresolved, despite nearly eight weeks of marathon negotiations in Washington in April and May, focused mainly on autos.

FILE PHOTO: The flags of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

Canada and Mexico had their role in running down the clock. It has taken Ottawa and Mexico three months to produce counterproposals, drawing criticism from Lighthizer they were failing to “engage.”

Canadian and Mexican negotiators argued they needed time to understand the logic of U.S. demands because they came without customary backup evidence and analysis. U.S. negotiators said it was the consequence of the extremely tight timetable.

But U.S. chief negotiator John Melle privately complained to U.S. colleagues that Ottawa was deliberately wasting time on less essential matters, such as proposed new chapters on women’s and indigenous people’s rights, a U.S. source close to the talks said. Canadian officials deny trying to drag out negotiations.

Speaking at a business event early this year, Canada’s veteran chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, described the talks as the “most unusual negotiation” he had ever been involved in, because of Washington’s winner-takes-all approach.

“They are looking to strengthen the U.S. and by doing that weaken Canada and Mexico.”


Trump’s threats to quit NAFTA and Washington’s uncompromising stance made some involved in the talks wonder whether its goal was to blow up the pact or improve it.

“My boss thinks 40 percent of Lighthizer wants a deal, 60 percent doesn’t, and you see both Lighthizers, sometimes in the same conversation,” one NAFTA diplomat told Reuters.

Lighthizer frequently told reporters and lawmakers that he was negotiating for “an audience of one,” and it was ultimately Trump’s call whether to accept or reject a deal.

Talks seemed to gain some momentum in early April, when U.S. negotiators toned down their automotive demands – cutting the proposed regional content threshold by 10 percentage points to 75 percent, but with a $16 minimum wage component for 40 percent of autos. Mexico responded with 70 percent and 20 percent, respectively, though Guajardo on Friday still put chances of a deal before July 1 at about 40 percent.

However, with Washington waging trade battles on other fronts it has been hard to sustain that momentum.

For example, when the United States threatened to hit Chinese imports with tariffs because of intellectual property concerns and talks reached a critical phase in late April, a trade mission to Beijing took Lighthizer away from NAFTA for a week.

And last week, his office launched a national security investigation that could lead to tariffs on vehicle and auto parts imports from North America, Europe and Asia. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Reuters on Thursday the move was intended to pressure Canada and Mexico in the NAFTA talks.

Whether they will yield to that pressure is another matter and in the meantime the probe could end tying up Lighthizer’s stretched resources.

Even with a deal on autos, it could take time to work out other issues, such as intellectual property safeguards for drugmakers, said former U.S. trade negotiator Wendy Cutler.

“Sometimes there’s just not enough time to come up with creative solutions.”

Additional reporting by Anthony Esposito and Dave Graham; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by David Chance and Tomasz Janowski

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South32 buys half of BaoWu’s Eagle Downs

The diversified miner will become the operator of the project, with a further $27 million payable to BaoWu in three years, as well as royalty payments capped at $80 million.

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New CFO for Metminco

Metcalfe provides CFO and company secretarial services for companies in Australia, as well as advises on corporate governance matters and manages regulatory functions. He has recently worked with Synertec, Crosslands Metals, Memphasys and Kopore Metals.

He is a member of the Australian Certified Practising Accountants and a fellow of the Governance Institute of Australia.

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Hogan will remain with Metminco until the end of July to assist with the management transition.

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Sources of regulatory risk within mining codes

Ontario displaced British Columbia in MineHutte’s Regulatory Risk Ratings for 2018, with Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua making the top 10 minimal risk jurisdictions. New ratings for The Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania place them amongst the lowest-scored jurisdictions, alongside some new entries including Taiwan, Malawi and Lesotho.

As well as providing an overall regulatory risk rating, MineHutte’s 17-stage, step-by-step analysis also reveals the terms applicable at different stages of the mining cycle, pinpointing both the sources and level of regulatory risk. It is rare, though not unheard of, for a mining code to pose a critical risk at every stage; it is even less common to find codes that apply a ‘Model Investor Standard’ across the board.

“Risk can vary widely within codes,” MineHutte’s director of research, Emma Beatty said. “It may be that a legal framework poses a very low risk at the exploration stage but a very high risk at the exploitation stage. Or you can find a code which poses a fairly moderate level of risk throughout but contains a fatal flaw that investors need to be aware of.”

Taking some examples from MineHutte’s analysis, at the exploration stage a number of jurisdictions, including Alberta, France, Ghana, Germany, Nevada and Zimbabwe, do not acknowledge the ‘first come, first served’ principle in relation to the granting of exploration rights. Others – Greece, Namibia and Spain – acknowledge the principle yet their application criteria undermine it. Whilst the DRC, El Salvador, Gabon, Michigan and Sweden provide adequate duration for exploration licences, they fail to protect the explorationists’ interests at the licence renewal stage.

Moving from exploration to extraction, jurisdictions such as India, Nigeria, Saskatchewan and Peru provide the highest degree of certainty for tenure of mining licences yet fail to reduce the risk for an investor in relation to land access and surface rights.

The government’s right to revoke a licence is also an important risk consideration for investors and operators; regulations which limit revocation to narrow, clearly defined and objective grounds, whilst also providing a right of appeal, are considered low risk because there is limited uncertainty for the investor.

Some jurisdictions fail to address this factor adequately, resulting in a situation where British Columbia and Quebec are found in the same risk bracket as Bolivia and Romania in relation to revocation of title. Peru, Ireland and Nevada on the other hand have clearly outlined regulations on the government’s right to revoke licences, earning the maximum score under this category.

Poor drafting of codes and regulations and excessive levels of government discretion can often result in jurisdictions given a High-to-Critical risk rating by MineHutte, even when common perception would consider them low risk jurisdictions. For example, South Australia and Queensland find themselves within the same bracket as Ghana and Ecuador under High Corruption Potential – indicative of a legal framework that grants certain powers to an authority but fails to define the basis or parameters for the exercise of such powers.

“The regulatory risk assessment is undertaken with a blind-fold on, we do not get influenced by the country or other risk metrics, we focus only on the legal framework and the terms applicable to any investment,” Beatty explained.

Given the nuances within mining codes and regulations, the MineHutte Regulatory Risk Report 2018 provides scores for over 120 jurisdictions from Minimal to Critical risk. The risk scores are the result of an objective scrutiny of the legal framework and benchmark a jurisdiction’s mining code and regulations against a ‘Model Investor Standard’. From ascertaining whether the ‘first come, first served’ principle is acknowledged in law and reflected in the application process for exploration licences, to the freedom afforded to the licence holder to transfer mining rights, MineHutte is able to detail the level and source of risk across the 17 individual categories it considers.

MineHutte also assists companies in looking further than just the regulatory risk by providing information on the corruption potential within mineral codes. The Corruption Potential Index can immediately spot the high-risk jurisdictions.

“The law and regulations lay down due process, if the due process itself is open to discretionary decision making, you will always leave the door open for corrupt practices to flourish,” Beatty said.

In recent years, a revision to a mining code does not necessarily imply an improvement in investor certainty or a reduction in risk from the previous iteration of the code. Explaining the increasing risk in recent revisions of a number of mining codes, Emma suggests the “regulatory risk has increased as codes are becoming more demanding of mining companies whilst at the same time increasing levels of government control over industry”.

“It is becoming increasingly common to find laws that fail to clarify or define their terms, leaving the investor in the dark as to what compliance to such terms would look like. For example, regulations often phrase the evaluation of applicants based on their ‘financial and technical capability’ without defining or referencing what such capability entails or they include vague language such as ‘to the satisfaction of the Ministry’ without providing any guidance as to what a Ministry would find satisfactory.”

MineHutte clarifies that under their ratings there are no ‘un-investable’ jurisdictions just ‘un-investable’ codes. Those with a Critical or Severe risk rating require an investor to put in place extensive mitigation measures. The legal framework in these jurisdictions creates a very high-risk environment, and a negotiated agreement or mining convention should be considered as mandatory to mitigate the risk.

MineHutte currently provides three ratings and indices. The Regulatory Risk Rating, which focuses solely on the mining laws and regulations, measuring the level of risk which they pose to investment; the Corruption Potential Index, which measures the potential for corruption specifically within the mining industry; and the Corruption Risk Index, which screens the mining legislation through a governance lens and indicates the likelihood of government actors using discretionary powers for improper (corrupt) objectives.


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Bezant’s Mankayan exploration term renewed

Bezant said Tuesday the project’s mineral production sharing agreement had been renewed to April 2020, subject to customary conditions, such as stakeholder engagement and work programme commitments.  

The company previously sold its Choco platinum-gold project in Colombia to Auvert Mining for US$500,000 in April to focus on building value from its copper-gold assets, including Mankayan and the Eureka project in Argentina.

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Bezant executive chairman Colin Bird said the renewal provided some certainty and time in which to complete project evaluation and planned enhancement work.

He said the project was “well-positioned in the global league table of potential future mining development projects”, and Bezant should be able to add value through further work to enhance the existing resource and metal grades.

“We now intend to progress our work programme preparations and assess all aspects of the project in the short-term,” he said.

Bezant CEO Laurence Read said stakeholder engagement would be a primary focus over the next two years while progressing Mankayan, with technical and community programmes to be rolled out to add value to the project.

He said this was in line with the Philippine government’s strategy stating that “mining shall be pro-people and pro-environment in sustaining wealth creation and improved quality of life”.

Bezant’s shares rose 2.15% Tuesday to 0.47p (US0.62c).

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How the world’s biggest private equity oil and gas industry bid collapsed

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Blame it on Trump, Iran or Venezuela. Rising oil prices combined with a heavy debt load killed the world’s biggest private equity oil and gas industry deal last week.

FILE PHOTO: A sign for Santos Ltd is displayed on the front of the company’s office building in the rural township of Gunnedah, located in north-western New South Wales in Australia, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

Harbour Energy left Australia empty-handed after a year of chasing gas producer Santos Ltd (STO.AX), missing out on Santos’ stakes in three liquefied natural gas projects in Australia and Papua New Guinea as it sought to become a major LNG player.

The U.S. firm, backed by EIG Global Energy Partners, was forced to bid against itself five times, including twice over one weekend, until it made a final offer of $10.8 billion, up more than 50 percent from its first approach last August.

“The grievance runs deep and it’s heartfelt,” said a person in the Harbour camp.

Harbour Chief Executive Linda Cook, a former senior executive at Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), was on a plane last Tuesday when she heard Santos had rejected its sixth offer, worth about A$6.95 a share. She declined to comment for this story.

Harbour’s disappointed chairman, Blair Thomas, was already back in Washington, DC, and didn’t mince words.

“There was insufficient engagement with Santos on valuation, no meaningful attempt by Santos to discuss a realistic price which could supported by any reasonable set of technical and commercial assumptions, and an unwillingness by their Board to explore means of closing the gap between the offer and their expectations,” he said in a two-page statement.

Thomas believed by the end of a weekend of back and forth between advisers on both sides that he had a deal with Santos Chairman Keith Spence, a person in the Harbour camp said.

Harbour’s team were parked in Sydney, where Harbour’s backer EIG has an office and advisers at JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Highbury are based, according to people involved. “A couple of hundred” people were involved in analyzing data and conducting due diligence, they said.

Cook and Thomas met Kevin Gallagher and Keith Spence, their counterparts at Adelaide-based Santos, on May 18. They felt encouraged the board would facilitate an offer going to shareholders, people in the Harbour camp said.

People on both sides said talks were cordial the whole time, but the Santos board was firm on value, and Harbour failed to offer enough of a premium as oil prices marched higher.

Crude prices climbed from around $52 a barrel when Harbour made its first approach in August to $80 last week, their highest since late 2014, as U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Venezuela and pulled out of a nuclear arms control deal with Iran, both key oil producers.

What hurt Harbour was the $7.75 billion in debt they had lined up from JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, which required oil price hedging against 30 percent of Santos’ oil-linked LNG sales, making the deal complex, Santos, investors and bankers said.

“The problem is when you get high-leverage deals there are a lot of terms and conditions you have to meet and it makes it inflexible,” said a veteran Australian investment banker not involved in the bid.

Santos balked when Harbour tried to force the company to lock in the hedges, in order to cut costs for the banks and allow Harbour to raise its offer.

Santos said it was “resilient” to the oil price fall, as it has slashed costs to be cash flow breakeven at $36 a barrel.

The value of the Harbour bid was “simply not compelling enough” compared with Santos’ own growth plan, the risks associated with the hedging and the reliance on Santos’ balance sheet to help fund the deal, a Santos spokeswoman said.


Not only was Harbour jilted at the altar, but the biggest shareholders in Santos, Chinese gas distributor ENN Ecological 60003.SS and private equity firm Hony Capital missed out on more than doubling their combined stake to up to 40 percent in a privatized Santos.

Sources said ENN and Hony were as furious as Harbour.

“They’re deeply disappointed and angry and frustrated,” a person close to ENN said. “They feel that the outcome didn’t reflect some of the conversations with senior Santos people.”

However in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange last week, ENN, which has a director on the board of Santos, said: “The company’s future cooperation with Santos is not affected.”

A Santos spokeswoman said ENN is part of a united Santos board, and the company’s strategic relationship with ENN and Hony remains in place.

Hony said it “will closely follow the further development”.

Swiss energy and commodities trader Mercuria, which was set to contribute 10 percent of the bid, was thwarted in its ambition to use Santos to get into LNG trading, where its rivals Glencore, Gunvor, Trafigura and Vitol are already active.

“A lot of time and money went into this…so it is annoying,” said a person familiar with Mercuria’s thinking.

Mecuria declined to comment.

Harbour’s first approach last August was swiftly rejected by the board under then-chairman Peter Coates, who had also rebuffed a $5.1 billion takeover offer two years earlier when Santos was wallowing in debt as oil prices collapsed.

The August approach was only disclosed by Santos in November after a newspaper outed Harbour. It took Harbour until March to line up funding from JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley and equity from Mercuria, ENN and Hony in order to make another approach.

Top 10 shareholder Argo Investments said the deal was too complex and would have involved Santos taking on too much risk when there was a lot of uncertainty around whether it would be approved.

Shareholders have faith in CEO Gallagher, who slashed costs and cut debt faster than expected over the past two years.

“It’s fair to say that he’s done a pretty good job,” said Argo Investments Managing Director Jason Beddow.

“The proof will be in the pudding as to how Santos looks in a year or two’s time – which is somewhat dependent on the oil price.”

Reporting by Sonali Paul. Additional reporting by Julia Payne and Ron Bousso in London. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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Resolute invests in Orca

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