NAB energy and resources director Simon Esposito declared the bank was open for business, which was echoed by private equity funds.
Investment firm XLX resources director George Aitken said it was a busy time looking for opportunities.
“This is the time to buy – we’ve never been more active,” he told a panel session at Mines and Money in Melbourne last week.
The consensus from speakers and panel members was that asset quality and a strong management team were crucial.
“We back a strategy – it starts with asset quality,” Resource Capital Funds Management principal Chris Corbett said.
Pacific Road partner Mike Stirzaker said he looked for passion, skin in the game and a plan.
“We want to see that passion,” he said.
Stirzaker said Pacific Road described itself as a partner, as well as an investor.
“We want to back you guys to do your job,” he said.
“We want to feel there is a genuine chance for a partnership.”
Though he warned that the fund would be prepared to step in if things went off track.
“We will be active but not activist – unless we have to be,” Stirzaker said.
“If it goes off track then you can’t unscramble the eggs.”
While Denham Capital director Bert Koth said his firm would invest in greenfields exploration, most said they would only invest later.
“We don’t invest in the first hole,” Aitken said.
“We want some sort of certainty that a resource is there.”
RCF will also only invest from a resource onwards.
“As soon as there are enough holes in the ground and it looks like it’s going to get developed – we invest from there,” Corbett said.
Most were fairly open-minded with investment destinations and Corbett said RCF had invested in 30 jurisdictions but the main criterion was security of tenure.
Stirzaker said Pacific Road would only invest in places where its team had experience and was starting to look in Australia again after prices had come down.
“We want to feel that not just our money but the skill set that comes with that are being valued,” he said.
On commodities, Aitken said coal was an “unfashionable” place to invest money, though Rio Tinto’s $US1 billion sale of its stake in the Clermont coal mine, as well as Cockatoo Coal’s takeover bid for Blackwood Corporation had injected some life into the troubled sector.
“That’s some very interesting and positive signs,” he said.
One thing that the panel participants couldn’t agree on was when things were going to get better, though the feeling from the conference was that it couldn’t get any worse.
“We don’t see it getting any worse,” Aitken said.
“It terms of when it’s going to get better, we don’t know.
“It’s all about price expectations. We’ve seen a real lag between price expectation and reality. If the price discount is there, the investor is there.”
Stirzaker said the downturn was taking longer than he’d thought it would.
“I do feel it’s not going to get any worse but I don’t see an upside soon,” he said.
“What’s really missing is confidence – that’s a difficult thing to speculate on.”