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Brazilian billionaire covets Ventana Gold

Kevork Djansezian/2010 Getty Images

Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista is making a $1.2-billion cash offer to take full control of Ventana Gold Corp. , sending the company's shares soaring almost 40 per cent.

Mr. Batista, a resource tycoon with extensive holdings in mining and oil, already owns 20 per cent of Vancouver-based Ventana. The offer, a week after the company released positive results from a resource study of its Colombian gold project, is being made through Mr. Batista's company EBX Group.

Ventana's properties are in the early stages of development, but it is well known in the mining world. "Just about every company in the gold mining space has looked at Ventana," said analyst Michael Fowler of Loewen Ondaatje McCutcheon Ltd. He added the deposits are particularly attractive to some of the larger gold companies.

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Mr. Batista's move could prove well timed, as gold prices sit near record levels. In the mining world, Colombia is quickly becoming the rising star, and Ventana operates next to Greystar Resources Ltd., which has substantial proven resources.

For that reason, Mr. Fowler thinks Mr. Batista's offer may not be high enough. Gold companies are paying prices in excess of $500 (U.S.) per resource ounce to acquire high-quality assets, he noted, while EBX's offer works out to about $370 an ounce.

However, Ventana's deposits aren't as easy to get at as those of other companies. Unlike Greystar's deposits nearby, some of Ventana's resources are deep in a mountainside. The company's operations are also in the early stages, meaning it will take years for the mine to be commercially viable.

Yet some well-known names see potential in Ventana. Vancouver mining entrepreneur Ross Beaty holds the second-largest position through Lumina Capital, according to Capital IQ. Mr. Batista has also been accumulating shares over time through an entity known as 63X Master Fund, bringing his total ownership close to 20 per cent before the offer.

The offer provides a 26-per-cent premium to the stock price before the announcement. Ventana shares jumped $3.87 to close at $13.90 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Ventana has not yet made a decision on whether to back the takeover. "The board of Ventana has commenced the process of engaging advisers to assist it in responding to this bid," the company said in a statement. "The board will make every effort to maximize value for the benefit of Ventana's shareholders and will update its shareholders from time to time as this development progresses."

EBX declined to comment on its offer. In a press release, the company said it will fund its all-cash bid with internal cash and committed credit facilities.

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Mr. Batista is one of the world's richest men, cracking Forbes' list of top 10 billionaires in 2010. He has a net worth of $27-billion, based on mining interests and a stake in a promising new offshore oil strike.

He is also the son of Eliezer Batista da Silva, who once headed Vale SA. On Wednesday, Vale announced it would pump $10-billion into its Canadian operations, which once belonged to Canadian nickel miner Inco.

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About the Author
Reporter and Streetwise columnist

Tim Kiladze is a business reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before crossing over to journalism, he worked in equity capital markets at National Bank Financial and in fixed-income sales and trading at RBC Dominion Securities. Tim graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and also earned a Bachelor in Commerce in finance from McGill University. More

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