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Battle For Asarco To Face Key Test in Texas Court

19 October, 2009

India’s Sterlite Industries and Grupo Mexico SAB de CV will head to court on Monday to begin the final stage of their year-long face off for control of bankrupt U.S. copper miner Asarco.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen will consider in a hearing whether to take a U.S. bankruptcy judge’s recommendations and allow the Mexican miner to regain control of bankrupt Asarco, which runs three copper mines in Arizona.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt has twice recommended that the District Court approve Grupo Mexico’s offer for the company, saying the plan would repay Asarco’s creditors in full, preserve its equity value, and possibly amount to one of the “most successful major bankruptcy reorganizations in history.”

Sterlite has made numerous attempts to sweeten its offer for Asarco — as part of its latest $2.565 billion offer it said it would let Grupo Mexico out of an $8 billion potential legal liability stemming from the 2003 transfer of Asarco’s stake in Peruvian miner Southern Copper Corp.

But in September Judge Schmidt recommended the District Court in Brownsville reject the sweetened bid in favor of Grupo’s $2.4799 billion offer, saying it was too late for Sterlite to make changes to its offer.

“Considering the volatile commodities market and world economy, time is of the essence in moving this case toward confirmation and consummation,” Schmidt wrote in court papers.

Grupo Mexico, the largest copper miner in Mexico, acquired Asarco in a leveraged buyout in 1999 but lacks board control due to the bankruptcy.

Schmidt had first endorsed Grupo’s bid in August, saying that it would offer more recovery to Asarco’s creditors than Sterlite’s plan.

Sterlite, part of London-listed Vedanta Resources, has argued its plan is better for the company and its offer has the support of Asarco and Asarco’s union. Grupo Mexico does not yet have a labor agreement with the union, which has said it may strike if they cannot reach a deal.

Grupo has been fighting to take back Asarco since the company filed for bankruptcy in 2005 amid a worker strike and more than $1 billion of asbestos and environmental claims.

The Mexican miner group said in a statement in September that it was “extremely pleased” with Judge Schmidt’s recommendation, and that Asarco should be able to exit bankruptcy protection by the end of the year.

The cases are In re: Asarco LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 05-21207 and In re: Asarco LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 09-00177.


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Battle For Asarco To Face Key Test in Texas Court

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