The Investment Column: Kazakhmys is a long-term bet for the risk hungry

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It is not just the Alternative Investment Market that can attract high-risk mining companies from emerging markets of the former Soviet Union. So can the main list of the London Stock Exchange, as last month's flotation of Kazakhmys proves. There is one glaring difference between Kazakhmys and the proliferation of spivvy companies on AIM: Kazakhmys is massive. Its market valuation is £3.23bn and it was confirmed yesterday that the company is going into the FTSE 100.

It will be like no other FTSE 100 company. Privatised by the Kazakhstan government in stages after 1992, the company has 16 copper mines across three regions of the country. For those of you too embarrassed to ask, Kazakhstan sits directly below Russia, covering an area the size of Western Europe, and sharing a significant border with the copper-guzzling industrialising nation that is China. Kazakhstan is oil rich, mineral rich, and one day will actually be rich.

For now, it is among the lowest-cost places to mine. Kazakhmys is investing in new mining capacity and is expected to boost copper production by 50 per cent over eight years, while its strong balance sheet and currently good relations with the government should mean opportunistic acquisitions on top of this.

The list of risks should put most people off. Mining is dangerous, and production can be lost due to accidents or technical difficulties. Kazakhmys cannot go on with so high an accident rate, where 30-odd fatalities a year are leading to spiralling compensation costs.

Kazakhstan, despite having been spared the ethnic violence of other countries in this region, is still a flawed democracy whose privatisations are widely resented. Governments can act capriciously with regard to mining rights and taxes.

And then there is the copper price, at a record high (hence the share price surge since flotation) but commodities experts are split on when the extra mining capacity will catch up with the demand from China. It is worth betting that analysts will prove conservative in their assumptions on the copper price for several years yet, but remember it is a bet. At least the company's low costs mean it will not suffer as much as rivals if there is a sustained fall.

Kazakhmys is paying a market-average dividend, which also mitigates some of the risks. For long-term, risk-hungry investors with cash to spare, buy.

Keep hold of Persimmon as the builder joins FTSE 100

The second company confirmed as a new member of the FTSE 100 from the end of next week is Persimmon, which will become the UK's biggest housebuilder by number of homes sold when it consummates the £643m acquisition of Westbury.

Thanks to the surge in its share price prompted by the deal, it is already streets ahead of Barratt Developments as the biggest housebuilder by market value, weighing in at £3.36bn.

Housebuilders' shares have been climbing all year, despite the fact that house price inflation has been moderating, meaning companies can no longer expect the same fat profit margin from turning the land they bought four years ago into the latest fast-selling residential development. What seems to be becoming clear, is that the UK is avoiding a housing crash and the housebuilding sector is going to avoid the company bankruptcies of the last cycle. Meanwhile, the instruction coming through from the Government is: for pity's sake, build more homes. That can only be good for the long-term health of the most robust companies, of which Persimmon is one.

The acquisition of Westbury is just a cheap land deal for Persimmon. It paid a 35 per cent premium to value of the assets in Westbury's books, but that valuation will be out of date. The combined company, with cost savings of £40m and an opportunity to focus in the next few years on the most lucrative developments planned by both sides, ought to pay down Persimmon's additional debt quickly.

Persimmon is one of the most diverse of the housebuilders, both geographically and by type of home. But it has avoided too high a concentration on city apartment blocks, where the market appears rickety.

Big dividend increases in recent years have ensured that the yield on the stock has not been whittled away by the share price surge, although it remains a below-par 2.8 per cent. The risesat least signal confidence in the sustainability of the business beyond the current rocky period, and the market may yet learn to value housebuilders against their earnings rather than their assets - i.e., more highly. We said buy at 840p in August. Now 1,139.5p, hold.

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