Financially troubled producer Mercator Minerals (TSX: ML; US-OTC: MLKKF) has filed for protection from its creditors in Canada and the U.S.
Vancouver-based Mercator — which owns the Mineral Park copper–molybdenum mine in Arizona and two base-metal projects in Mexico — warned on Aug. 18 that it might need to file for creditor protection, after its subsidiary Mineral Park failed to reach an agreement with the syndicate of lenders under the MPI credit facility to extend their forbearance beyond Aug. 15, 2014.
According to Laurentian Bank Securities analyst Christopher Chang, the junior had US$140 million in total debt — including the US$79-million MPI loan — at the end of the first quarter.
On Aug. 26, Mercator filed a notice of intention to make a proposal under the Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the first stage of a restructuring process, which allows it to avoid bankruptcy and possibly provide compensation for creditors.
Four of the junior’s subsidiaries — Mercator Mineral Park Holdings Ltd., Mineral Park Inc., Lodestrike Resources Ltd., and Bluefish Energy Corp. — also filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in the U.S.
The junior landed in this sticky situation after a business combination with Intergeo, owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, collapsed because the Russian Federation Anti-monopoly Services needed more time to review the deal. If the merger had closed, Intergeo would have taken care of Mercator’s debt.
Since revealing the likelihood of the merger failing in July, Mercator has been seeking alternatives, including the sale of the company. Mercator said it received several proposals from interested parties that it believes would be in the best interest of all shareholders, adding that when it shared these proposals with the MPI lenders, they failed to “constructively engage.”
The junior explains that once it files the notice of intention, it will receive an initial 30 days of protection from its creditors to allow it to pursue a proposal.
Deloitte Restructuring will help the company in its restructuring efforts and is the trustee in Mercator’s proposal proceedings.
Mercator says an investment bank will assist with a potential stand-alone sale of its subsidiary Mineral Park Inc., however, believes the sale will not fully cover the amount owed to the MPI lenders.
The junior cautions that if it fails to achieve its financing and restructuring goals, it will likely become bankrupt.
On Aug. 26, regulators at the Toronto Stock Exchange suspended trading in Mercator’s shares as part of their delisting review.
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