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May 2001

Mining giant BHP has announced a $57 billion merger with the London-based Billiton PLC, creating one of the world’s largest resources companies. The deal, the largest in Australian corporate history, will create a company worth $71 billion, second in value only to Rio Tinto.

The company, to be based on Melbourne, awaits approval by shareholders and regulatory authorities.

BHP shareholders will receive a bonus issue of .0651 shares for each share held in the company and will hold a 58% interest in the merged group, with Billiton holding 42%.

Rival Anglo American, meanwhile, announced that it will not challenge the merger and consequently sold its 7.1 percent stake in Billiton.

Coinciding with the merger with Billiton, BHP also announced that it has agreed to buy Dia Met Minerals for $505 million in cash and debt, meanwhile tightening its control of Ekati, Canada’s only producing diamond mine.

Buying Dia Met gives BHP an 80% stake in the lucrative Ekati mine. In the 2000 fiscal year, for example, Dia Met announced that earnings rose more than 17%, to $117 million from $99.8 million last year. Ekati produced 2,629,000 carats of diamond in this period, ended Jan. 31 and sold 2,483,000 carats at an average of $172.52 per carat.

The acquisition continues the growth of BHP, which, like Rio Tinto, has been squeezing De Beers as the world’s dominant diamond producer.

The takeover by BHP was unanimously approved by Dia Met’s board of directors. The offer ends seven months of uncertainty for Dia Met, which was announced for sale in October, after the company’s two largest shareholders indicated a desire to sell their shares. Prior to the purchase by BHP, Dia Met announced that its net earnings for 2000 were $49.7 million, or $1.61 per basic share, versus $50.3 million, or $1.65 per share the previous year.

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