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Freeport does not want to be 'distracted' by buyout offers, CFO says

Sept 15 (Reuters) – Freeport-McMoRan Inc does not want to be distracted by any buyout offers and is focused on expanding its Grasberg copper-and-gold mine in Indonesia and boosting cash flow, Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Quirk said on Tuesday.

Executives at rival miner Barrick Gold Corp have openly talked in recent months about their interest in buying all or part of Freeport, especially Grasberg, the world’s largest copper mine.

No official offer has been made, and Freeport Chief Executive Richard Adkerson has said he has no interest in any sale.

Quirk’s comments on Tuesday underscored that opposition. Freeport is nearing the end of a $15 billion project to expand Grasberg in what will be the largest underground mine ever developed, an expansion that is expected to significantly boost cash flow. Freeport is also building a copper smelter in Indonesia.

“We want to see our shareholders get the value from this plan as opposed to other shareholders getting the value,” Quirk told the Morgan Stanley 8th Annual Laguna Conference, which was webcast.

Roughly 70% of the Grasberg expansion project should be done by the end of the year, and 90% by the middle of 2021, she said.

Freeport’s stock has nearly tripled since hitting a low in March, and many analysts expect it to climb higher still. Copper prices have gained 11% since January, driven in part by rising demand from the electric vehicle industry.

Given that, Quirk and Adkerson have repeatedly said they do not feel now is the right time for a sale.

“We don’t really want to be distracted by M&A,” Quirk said. “We want to execute this plan. We believe that this plan will deliver exceptional value for shareholders.” (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Tom Brown)

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