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China firms to pay $1.95 bn for Brazil miner stake
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Sept 1, 2011

Three Chinese firms will pay $1.95 billion for a 15 percent stake in Brazilian rare metal mining firm CBMM, the world's biggest producer of niobium, state media said Thursday.

The deal comes as China snaps up key resources globally in a bid to secure stable supplies to keep its economy -- the world's second biggest -- moving.

CBMM, Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineracao, produces niobium, a rare metal crucial to the production of high-grade steel for cars and other products.

China's Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group, financial conglomerate CITIC Group and Baosteel Group set up an investment vehicle for the deal, due to be completed Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"This successful acquisition has major significance for the stable domestic supply of niobium resources," Xinhua quoted experts as saying.

Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group, based in the northern province of Shanxi, is a major producer of stainless steel while Shanghai-based Baosteel is China's second largest steel maker by output.

Chinese company officials could not be reached for comment on the report, which quoted sources.

The deal follows a similar move by a consortium of Japanese and South Korean companies, which also took a $1.95 billion stake in CBMM in March.

Japanese members of the consortium included Nippon Steel, JFE Steel, trading house Sojitz and the state Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. The South Korean entities were Posco and the National Pension Service.

At the time, the companies said they sought stable supplies of the metal as China, India and other emerging countries produced more high-grade steel.

Global demand for niobium grew around 10 percent annually while imports of the metal to China almost doubled over the past four years and will continue to rise in coming years, the Xinhua report said, but gave no figures.

CBMM is estimated to control more than 80 percent of the world's niobium market.

The miner, part of the Moreira Salles Group, is involved in the extraction, processing, manufacturing and marketing of niobium-based products, according to the company's website.

Currently, around 75 percent of niobium consumption is for alloy steels, and the metal is used in products ranging from aircraft to turbines.

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