* Sale price exceeds market expectations
* Deal is subject to approvals, expected to be sealed by year-end
* Share price climbs 3 percent then pares gains (Adds Brazil context, Deutsche Bank advising, updates share price)
By Barbara Lewis
LONDON, April 28 (Reuters) - Anglo American has agreed to sell its niobium and phosphates businesses in Brazil to China Molybdenum for $1.5 billion in cash, it said on Thursday, as it seeks to cut debt in a radical restructuring of the global mining group.
Anglo American shares rose more than 8 percent, outperforming the sector as analysts said the price was higher than expected and boded well for further deals.
“The proceeds from this transaction ... will enable us to continue to reduce our net debt towards our targeted level of less than $10 billion at the end of 2016,” Anglo’s chief executive Mark Cutifani said.
The niobium and phosphates businesses consist of mines, plants, processing facilities, chemical complexes and deposits.
Niobium is an ingredient of specialist high-strength steels while phosphate production serves Brazil’s domestic market for fertilisers.
The deal reflects Asia’s increasing interest in Brazil’s agricultural sector. Shipping data analysed by Reuters showed the world’s traditional trading houses have lost their century-old dominance of Brazil’s grain market to Asian rivals.
While Japanese firms have directly acquired Brazilian soybean producing companies, China has bought stakes in international firms involved in fertiliser and other sectors that indirectly boost production.
Analysts said the purchase price was around $500 million above expectations following reports of interest from other firms, including Apollo Global Management LLC and Vale.
Bernstein said in a note the deal should give investors confidence that Anglo can realise good value for its assets and marked a shift in strategy.
“Anglo American is dressing itself up as an attractive takeover target,” it said.
The group is selling parts of its business after a commodities rout that has triggered a fight for survival even among heavyweight miners.
As it aims to cut its net debt to less than $10 billion by the end of the year from $12.9 billion at the end of December, the ratio under scrutiny is net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
BMO Capital Markets that ratio should shrink to less than three from a previous projection of 3.3.
On first analysis it said the deal could reduce Anglo Amercian’s debt sufficiently for it to regain an investment grade credit rating following its downgrade to junk by credit ratings agencies.
The deal is subject to certain approvals and is expected to close in the second half of the year.
China Molybdenum, which is advised by Deutsche Bank, is one of China’s largest producers of molybdenum, used in making alloys. (Additional reporting by Sarah Young in London and Caroline Stauffer in Sao Paulo; Editing by Greg Mahlich and David Evans)