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Fission Uranium nears landmark $82-million investment from state-owned Chinese giant CGN Mining Company Ltd

Fission Uranium Corp. is closing in on a landmark deal with a Chinese company that would represent China’s first direct investment into a Canadian uranium firm.

Fission and state-owned CGN Mining Company Ltd. have signed a letter of intent for CGN to acquire a 19.9 per cent stake in Fission for $82.2 million. The two sides also plan to enter an offtake agreement in which CGN would buy uranium output from Fission’s Patterson Lake South (PLS) property in Saskatchewan.

Companies often sign letters of intent that never turn into firm deals, but Fission chief executive Dev Randhawa said it is “highly likely” this transaction will close next month. CGN announced the deal publicly on Monday, and it put the money in trust with Fission’s lawyers, he added.

CGN is controlled by China General Nuclear Power Corp., one of China’s two giant nuclear power firms. The company raised US$3.2 billion in an initial public offering last year, and is involved in many clean energy ventures.

“You can’t pick a better partner on the world stage when it comes to utilities than CGN,” Randhawa said in an interview.

Kelowna, B.C.-based Fission has said for months that it wants to get an investment from a Chinese partner. Randhawa does not want to sell his company while the uranium market is so depressed, and this investment means he will not have to return to the market for cash over the next two or three years.

The talks between Fission and CGN have gone on for a few years, but they began to heat up in the summer of 2014. Fission’s adviser, GMP Securities, warned the company that it would take a long time to get a deal done, according to Randhawa. The Chinese tend to be very deliberate negotiators, and new anti-corruption laws also slowed the process down.

China is keen to source future uranium supplies, because the country is in the midst of a massive nuclear power build-out to support its economy. China currently has 21 nuclear reactors under construction and 43 more that are planned, according to the World Nuclear Association. No other country has more than nine reactors under construction.

This investment would not violate the foreign investment restrictions on Canada’s uranium sector. Foreign companies are not allowed to own more than 49 per cent of a uranium mine in Canada, unless they cannot find a Canadian partner or they get federal government approval. They can own 100 per cent of an exploration company like Fission.

Fission’s PLS project is one of the best new uranium finds in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin in decades. In September, the company released an economic study suggesting the project could produce more than seven million pounds of uranium a year at low operating costs of US$14 a pound.

Despite the promise, Fission is having a very turbulent year. The company’s proposed merger with Denison Mines Corp. fell apart after it failed to get enough shareholder support. The company also faced a proxy battle from Jim Gifford, a frustrated investor who wanted to replace the board with a new slate of directors. (He later withdrew his proposal.)

Fission shares have fallen sharply alongside other junior uranium stocks. The whole sector has been under a black cloud since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. The spot uranium price is currently US$33.50 a pound, according to TradeTech. It was above US$60 prior to Fukushima.

Randhawa said he is hopeful that Fission’s share price will perform better once the CGN deal closes and investors realize it will not have to return to the market for cash anytime soon.

Financial Post