Analysis & Comment

Mining company Power Resources buys Woodford-backed Metalysis

LONDON (Reuters) – Mining company Power Resources Group (PRG) said on Friday it was buying Metalysis, a British high-tech specialist which was backed by asset manager Neil Woodford, out of administration.

Metalysis, which manufactures 3D printing powder, fell into administration in June, around the same time Woodford’s equity income fund, was frozen.

His fund had a 1.6 million pound stake in Metalysis, which has received a total of 92 million pounds ($115 million) through numerous funding rounds, most recently in 2018..

Metalysis, which has a plant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was in urgent need of “new ownership and further ongoing investment”, a spokesman said in June.

Power Resources Group mines in Rwanda for tantalum, used in mobile phones, and niobium, needed for high-strength alloys. It also has a refinery in North Macedonia and says it is a good fit for Metalysis, which it says can be strategic for Britain.

One of the challenges for Metalysis was its reliance on externally sourced minerals, whose prices can be volatile.

“The technology metals focus is a perfect complement to PRG’s existing vertically-integrated mining and refining operations and customer base,” PRG CEO Ray Power told Reuters.

Metalysis had a venture with rare earth miner Mkango Resources (MKA.V) and in March signed a contract with Britain’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, part of the Ministry of Defence. Metalysis grew out of research at Cambridge University and has spent more than a decade developing technology with applications in the aerospace and automotive industry.

Power said Metalysis had reached industrial-scale production only in the last nine months and had been “just a whisper away from commerciality” when it went into administration.

He declined to give financial details of the transaction but said PRG would be the sole owner of Metalysis.

Eddie Williams of Grant Thornton, joint administrator of Metalysis, said the sale had been “a very challenging process,” but he was pleased that jobs had been saved.

A spokesman confirmed Woodford’s fund was still invested when the company collapsed, but declined further comment.

Woodford is trying to sell illiquid assets to enable the reopening of his fund, which was frozen because it couldn’t meet redemption requests.

The sale of Metalysis is the first announced transfer of one of Woodford’s private assets, although he is not expected to recoup much from the deal.

Metalysis made an operating loss of 7.1 million pounds in the year ended March 2018 on revenues of 886 million pounds. It had a net book value – total assets minus intangible assets and liabilities – of 10 million pounds.

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