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Freeport-McMoRan Readies IPO For Exploration Unit

After paying billions in late 2012 to expand its U.S. exploration efforts, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (FCX) is looking to the markets to raise money to finance its efforts.

A prospectus filed Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicated that affiliate Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas Inc. (FM O&G) plans to raise $100 million by selling a minority stake through an initial public offering (IPO).

FCX, a global conglomerate based in Phoenix, had some ongoing exploration efforts before it built its U.S. arm through a friendly merger with exploration partners McMoRan Exploration Co. (MMR) and Plains Exploration & Production Co. (see Daily GPI, Dec. 6, 2012). FCX agreed to pay close to $3 billion for MMR and more than $9 billion including debt for Plains.

FM O&G, formed following the merger, was expected to be self-funding, but it hasn't achieved that goal yet. Early this year the company said it would defer 2015 drilling in a natural gas-rich trend onshore Louisiana that extends into the Gulf of Mexico; capital expenditures also were slashed by one-third from 2014 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 27).

Management then suggested three months later it might spin or sell a minority stake in FM O&G (see Daily GPI, April 23).

FCX's consolidated debt at the end of 2014 was $19 billion. Management had planned to reduce the load to $12 billion by the end of 2016, but CEO Richard Adkerson said during the first quarter conference call that it was unrealistic in the face of slumping commodity prices. FCX has been faced not only with stagnant oil and gas prices, but with declining copper prices.

Once the IPO is launched, FM O&G plans to apply to list the common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "FMOG." FCX did not indicate the timing for the IPO.

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