WITH nickel prices forecast to remain at 13-year highs for the next few years and a managing director whose track record is valued almost as much as the resource he is famed for finding, the timing seems perfect for the float of Nickel Australia Limited (NAL).
Announced amidst the nickel buzz last week, the proposed NAL float is a divestment of local gold explorer Croesus’ nickel assets, which are primarily located around Norseman and Davyhurst and now under the direction of incoming managing director Tony Rovira.
The company’s tightly held capital structure, high profile and proven management, well-developed exploration assets, and initial drilling returning results as high as 7 per cent nickel, set a positive tone for the float.
And although analysts are confident in NAL, it is the recruitment of Mr Rovira – formerly Jubilee Mines’ exploration general manager – that has the industry talking.
In moving to NAL Mr Rovira makes the transition from geologist to the corporate world after almost 10 years with Jubilee.
Mr Rovira, who graduated from Flinders University (SA) in geology in the early 1980s, has a proven reputation in the industry.
After stints with BHP, Barrack Mines and Pegasus Gold, his work paid off following his shift to Jubilee in 1995.
In late 1997 Mr Rovira played an instrumental role in the famed discovery and subsequent development of Jubilee Mines’ high grade, nickel sulphide deposits – Cosmos, and later Cosmos Deeps – near Leinster.
Cosmos amazingly went from discovery to development in less than three years and subsequently moved Jubilee into the big league. It now holds the second biggest market cap as an Australian local nickel producer, behind Lionore, of almost $550 million.
“It was obvious to all concerned after just two holes had been drilled we had a mine,” Mr Rovira said.
Mr Rovira’s role in the discovery of Cosmos and Cosmos Deeps did more than earn him joint AMEC Prospector of the Year with Jubilee’s other exploration manager of the time Terry Grammer, it also secured him an exploration manager’s package at Jubilee worth almost $330,000.
In this light many might find it hard to understand Mr Rovira’s resignation from Jubilee.
Mr Rovira said the move was not about the money; in fact he took a cut in remuneration to make the move. Rather, the NAL job is just as much about a step up into the corporate world as it is the assets that Croesus holds.
“It was an opportunity to personally and professionally advance my career to managing director of a company,” Mr Rovira said
“At Jubilee I had a fantastic opportunity to learn the corporate side of company administration.
“It was the opportunity to try something new, new challenges, and the chance to set up a new company.”
But it is obviously more than just a corporate play for Mr Rovira.
He believes Croesus’ nickel assets have a “very strong technical merit”.
As do stockbrokers, PatersonOrdMinnett, which is underwriting the IPO.
“With modern technology and Tony’s experience they should be able to target high grade nickel sulphide ore bodies rather than just blanket drill things,” Paterson-OrdMinnett associate director Paul Carter said.
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