Merger and acquisition activity is hotting up in the copper space as the major producers look to the smaller players to help them shore up production.

And potential buyers are willing to pay a premium.

OZ Minerals (ASX:OZL) this week made a $444 million offer for Avanco Resources (ASX:AVB) – a deal that values the junior at more than double its pre-offer market cap of $189 million.

“I think what’s happened in the copper market is the professionals from BHP and Rio Tinto down understand that the pipeline of projects is few and far between,” Altona Mining (ASX:AOH) managing director Alistair Cowden told Stockhead.

“We’re just not finding any new ones. The only way to really grow production if you’re a copper producer is acquire.”

Scroll down for a list of the best and worst performing ASX copper stocks.

Altona has found itself the target of a $93 million takeover bid by Canada’s Copper Mountain Mining (TSX:CMMC).

The all-scrip offer, which works out to about 17c per share, is a 41.7 per cent premium to the closing price of Altona’s share price before the offer was announced.

Shareholders of both companies voted in favour of the takeover this week.

Altona’s assets include $30 million in cash, and a permitted development project and large landholding in Queensland.

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“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we see more of this,” Mr Cowden said.

“There’s certainly not much copper exposure left on the ASX. There are very few copper producers to invest in, which is good for those who are there.”

Copper is already a large market – with everything from phones to infrastructure requiring the red metal.

“The demand for copper over the last hundred years mimics world GDP,” Mr Cowden noted. “So it’s always steadily growing.”

And if the electric vehicle market takes off as predicted, copper demand will rise further.

Electric cars drive demand

Within 10 years total copper consumption in all types of electric vehicle batteries and infrastructure could account for 5 per cent of the global market.

Morgan Stanley expects electric cars to need 1.1 million tonnes of copper by 2025. That’s expected to grow to 1.7 million tonnes by 2027 according to the International Copper Association (ICA).

Today electric cars account for only about 185,000 tonnes. The global market for copper is now about 23.9 million tonnes and that is forecast to rise to 28 million tonnes by early next decade.

“Electrification of things is obviously really helpful for the copper market and probably will make it grow faster than normal, but really it’s just a huge and diverse market that has been growing for years and will continue to grow,” Mr Cowden said.

“The challenge is feeding that.”

In a recent base metals and gold note, financial advisor UBS says it prefers copper over nickel equities at the moment.

“Copper at $US3/lb is fair, and the long-term outlook is positive with no immediate short-term risks,” UBS said.

“This leads us to have a neutral to favourable outlook for copper equities.”

Forty two of the 85 stocks Stockhead follows has made gains in the past year. King River Copper (ASX:KRC) is the biggest gainer, up 3500 per cent.

Aeris Resources (ASX:AIS) is next in line with a 300 per cent gain, followed by Tando Resources (ASX:TNO), which floated in November last year and has jumped 275 per cent since its ASX debut.

Here’s a list of the best and worst performing ASX-listed copper stocks over the past 12 months. Scroll for full list:

Ticker Name 12-month price change Price Mar 28, 2018 (3pm AEDT) Price Mar 28, 2017* Market Cap ($m)
TGS TIGER RESOURCES Suspended 0.049 0.05 101
VRX VENTNOR RESOURCES Suspended 0.067 0.02 16.84
KRC KING RIVER COPPER 35.6666666667 0.11 0.003 152.16
TNO TANDO RESOURCES (*floated Nov 2017) 2.75 0.75 0.2 23.94
BYH BRYAH RESOURCES (*floated Oct 2017) -0.25 0.15 0.2 8.45
AL8 ALDERAN RESOURCES (*floated Jun 2017) 2.25 0.65 0.2 75.57
TAR TARUGA GOLD 5.75 0.27 0.04 32.15
AIS AERIS RESOURCES 3 0.16 0.04 44.84
BPL BROKEN HILL PROSPECTING 2.5 0.14 0.04 21.43
RIE RIEDEL RESOURCES 2.5 0.07 0.02 33.45
ODM ODIN METALS 2.5 0.21 0.06 31.51
PEX PEEL MINING 2.42105263158 0.65 0.19 119.56
GWR GWR GROUP 2.16666666667 0.19 0.06 47.97
RXM REX MINERALS 2 0.18 0.06 38.59
LSR LODESTAR MINERALS 2 0.03 0.01 18.87
BBX BBX MINERALS 1.71428571429 0.19 0.07 65.91
SVY STAVELY MINERALS 1.63636363636 0.29 0.11 44.66
SCI SILVER CITY MINERALS 1.5 0.05 0.02 11.54
AUC AUSGOLD 1 0.04 0.02 22.51
AQD AUSQUEST 1 0.02 0.01 11.04
HNR HANNANS 1 0.02 0.01 33.59
RLC REEDY LAGOON CORP 1 0.04 0.02 16.79
ARE ARGONAUT RESOURCES NL 1 0.02 0.01 29.32
MZM MONTEZUMA MINING CO 0.875 0.3 0.16 25.87
AIV ACTIVEX 0.666666666667 0.15 0.09 26.58
NML NAVARRE MINERALS 0.6 0.08 0.05 22.96
STM SUNSTONE METALS 0.5 0.03 0.02 36.53
AUQ ALARA RESOURCES 0.5 0.03 0.02 15.73
SVM SOVEREIGN METALS 0.5 0.12 0.08 34.6
FEL FE 0.5 0.03 0.02 11.13
IGO INDEPENDENCE GROUP 0.338028169014 4.75 3.55 2.85B
AVB AVANCO RESOURCES 0.333333333333 0.16 0.12 380.82
CVV CARAVEL MINERALS 0.333333333333 0.08 0.06 9.56
ORN ORION MINERALS 0.333333333333 0.04 0.03 52.89
HCH HOT CHILI 0.333333333333 0.04 0.03 22.07
NZC NZURI COPPER 0.333333333333 0.36 0.27 94.57
HIG HIGHLANDS PACIFIC 0.285714285714 0.09 0.07 85.52
SGQ ST GEORGE MINING 0.285714285714 0.18 0.14 50.11
FND FINDERS RESOURCES 0.235294117647 0.21 0.17 169.58
RIO RIO TINTO 0.227098281328 73.54 59.93 117.13B
BHP BHP BILLITON LIMITED 0.197907949791 28.63 23.9 146.67B
SFR SANDFIRE RESOURCES NL 0.1872074883 7.61 6.41 1.24B
BOC BOUGAINVILLE COPPER 0.176470588235 0.2 0.17 82.22
RVR RED RIVER RESOURCES 0.166666666667 0.28 0.24 139.63
BOA BOADICEA RESOURCES 0.157894736842 0.22 0.19 10.53
HGO HILLGROVE RESOURCES 0.125 0.09 0.08 51.2
OZL OZ MINERALS 0.124533001245 9.03 8.03 2.72B
MLX METALS X 0.0704225352113 0.76 0.71 480.41
CSE COPPER STRIKE 0.0434782608696 0.24 0.23 25.64
SUM SUMATRA COPPER & GOLD 0 0.02 0.02 72.13
GPR GEOPACIFIC RESOURCES 0 0.04 0.04 64.87
AZY ANTIPA MINERALS 0 0.02 0.02 19.95
SRI SIPA RESOURCES 0 0.01 0.01 9.87
KLH KALIA 0 0.01 0.01 18.31
TMX TERRAIN MINERALS 0 0.01 0.01 4.44
ELT ELEMENTOS 0 0.01 0.01 7.7
WKT WALKABOUT RESOURCES 0 0.09 0.09 23.35
MEP MINOTAUR EXPLORATION 0 0.07 0.07 18.18
GTE GREAT WESTERN EXPLORATION 0 0.02 0.02 14.72
PNN PEPINNINI LITHIUM 0 0.03 0.03 15.81
XAM XANADU MINES -0.047619047619 0.2 0.21 123.62
RTG RTG MINING -0.111111111111 0.16 0.18 30.84
KGL KGL RESOURCES -0.19512195122 0.33 0.41 78.98
RDM RED METAL -0.214285714286 0.11 0.14 22.08
ARD ARGENT MINERALS -0.25 0.03 0.04 12.95
AMG AUSMEX MINING GROUP -0.25 0.06 0.08 24.26
AOH ALTONA MINING -0.3125 0.11 0.16 59.07
RCP REDBANK COPPER -0.333333333333 0.04 0.06 4.33
MGV MUSGRAVE MINERALS -0.333333333333 0.06 0.09 17.86
AVQ AXIOM MINING -0.333333333333 0.1 0.15 39.58
CDU CUDECO -0.351351351351 0.24 0.37 92.66
SUH SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE MINING -0.4 0.06 0.1 5.96
BUX BUXTON RESOURCES -0.434782608696 0.13 0.23 14.96
TLM TALISMAN MINING -0.447368421053 0.21 0.38 38.07
IVR INVESTIGATOR RESOURCES -0.5 0.02 0.04 11.1
PNX PNX METALS -0.5 0.01 0.02 11.98
SMD SYNDICATED METALS -0.5 0.01 0.02 5.08
MOD MOD RESOURCES -0.5 0.04 0.08 95.22
CRB CARBINE RESOURCES -0.6 0.04 0.1 6.39
HAV HAVILAH RESOURCES -0.606060606061 0.26 0.66 54.56
COY COPPERMOLY -0.666666666667 0.01 0.03 13.78
CZN CORAZON MINING -0.666666666667 0.01 0.03 17.71
TAS TASMAN RESOURCES -0.714285714286 0.06 0.21 26.41
HDY HARDEY RESOURCES -0.75 0.01 0.04 7.01
FNT FRONTIER RESOURCES -0.8 0.01 0.05 1.46