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StockBeat: Bargain-Hunter BAE Hits 18-Mo High; Anglo Snaps up Sirius

By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com -- Who can resist a bargain?

Not mining giant Anglo American (LON:AAL), apparently. Nor, for that matter, defense giant BAE Systems (LON:BAES), both of whom have announced opportunistic acquisitions on Monday.

But the two deals have very different backgrounds and outlooks, and have provoked correspondingly different reactions.

BAe’s shares rose as much as 3.2% to an 18-month high after it said it would buy two military businesses that U.S. antitrust regulators are forcing Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) to sell as part of their proposed merger.

That merger was always likely to end in some rare and valuable assets coming on to the market, and the highly regulated nature of the defense business meant that BAe had relatively little competition for them. As a result, it’s been able to pick up Raytheon's Airborne Tactical Radios business for $275m and Collins Aerospace’s Military Global Positioning System business for $1.925 billion. Both deals are cheap enough to fund via cash and new debt alone.

BAe said it expects the deals to be immediately accretive to margins and earnings, and combined tax benefits of some $365 million make the deal even sweeter.

The other big deal of the morning is a less clear-cut affair. Anglo American (LON:AAL) has also snapped up what -- at least on paper -- has the potential to be a lucrative asset, literally for pennies. It's agreed to buy Sirius Minerals, the owner of a huge prospective potash mine under a corner of northern England, for 5.5 pence a share, or 400 million pounds ($520 million) - barely 15% of the peak valuation in 2016.

Anglo’s shares fell 0.2% on the news, although they still outperformed other FTSE-listed rivals that were hit by profit-taking after drifting higher recently on increased optimism for global growth. That optimism will be tested at 8 AM ET by the publication of the IMF’s latest growth forecasts.

Sirius’ main asset is a huge resource of polyhalite, a mineral that it says can be commercialized into potash fertilizer, which raises the productivity of arable land. But the startup ran out of money last year after failing to raise debt to complete the mine, having already spent $1.1 billion on it. That task, with all the associated project risk which includes almost 40 kilometers of underground tunnelling and sharp increases in heavy traffic in an area protected because of its natural beauty, now falls to Anglo. On the upside, the U.K. now has a government that has made expansive promises to rejuvenate the economy of northern England, something that will generate at least some political tailwind.

By 5 AM ET (1000 GMT), BAe was up 2.6%, while the FTSE 100 was down 0.3%, supported by housebuilding stocks after data from Rightmove showed the biggest ever increase in U.K. house prices for a January.

The Stoxx 600 benchmark was down 0.2% at 423.60, while the German DAX was down 0.1%.

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