Sirius Minerals turns its focus to debt financing in "pivotal" year

Courtney Goldsmith
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Source: Sirius Minerals

Sirius Minerals is aiming to secure $2bn (£1.4bn) in debt backed by the UK government in what is set to be a "pivotal year" for the fertiliser maker.

The figures

The firm's main focus in 2018 will be securing up to $3bn in stage two debt financing, including about $2bn under the government's Infrastructure and Projects Authority, where discussions are ongoing. Sirius aims to finalise these agreements in the second half of the year.

Before financing costs, Sirius funnelled £197.3m into its huge mine development in the North York Moors national park.

The firm has signed supply agreements totalling 4.4m tonnes of polyhalite, a type of potash, per year, but it is targeting between six and seven million tonnes per year in 2018.

Read more: Sirius Minerals makes progress on its huge North Yorkshire potash mine

Why it's interesting

Analysts at Shore Capital said 2018 will be a "pivotal" year for Sirius as it looks to secure the debt financing to complete its polyhalite development, which will create thousands of jobs in the region and drive economic activity, with full production exports of £2.5bn a year in real goods.

"2017 was a really important milestone year where we translated from a development project to a construction project," chief executive Chris Fraser told City AM.

In the last year Sirius also made the jump from the Alternative Investment Market to the FTSE 250.

Fraser said the year ahead would be another of transformation for the company. So far, it has already signed a contract with DMC Mining Services, a world leading mining contractor, to develop four shafts at its North Yorkshire site.

The firm aims to begin production in 2021 and ramp up output to an initial production capacity of 10m tonnes per year. It expects to hit peak production in 2026 when it will produce 20m tonnes of polyhalite per year.

What Sirius said

Fraser was optimistic about the company's future despite uncertainty caused by Brexit.

"Uncertainty is never great for any business, but there are a lot of opportunities that could arise out of Brexit, should our negotiations land in a sensible place," he said.

He said the company will be a major exporter representing a huge fertilising industry, giving it a strong place in trade talks.

In the company's results statement, Fraser said:

We continue to innovate and work hard on all aspects of our project to secure value for shareholders and are focused on ensuring 2018 will be another year of significant progress on all fronts, as demonstrated by our recent shaft sinking contract."

Read more: Sirius Minerals to reveal progress on its huge North Yorkshire potash mine