Electrification and urbanisation will drive growth in copper Electrification and urbanisation will drive growth in copper Electrification and urbanisation will drive growth in copper

Electrification and urbanisation will drive growth in copper

Equities 8 minutes to read
Peter Garnry

Head of Equity Strategy

Summary:  Copper is an essential metal in our green transformation driven by electric vehicles and upgrades to our electric grid infrastructure. The ongoing urbanisation in the world is also driving construction which is one of the key demand drivers for copper. The demand outlook looks strong, but how can investors get exposure to copper. We explore the different options and highlights specifically six miners with high exposure to copper.

The long-term growth drivers of copper

The green transformation will electrify the global economy as cars go electric and more homes in colder areas will switch from natural gas as heating source to that of air to water heat pumps. In warmer parts of the world we will continue to see an acceleration in air conditioners to cool homes. The main usage of refined copper is for electrical applications, but it is also used in housing (pipes and fittings), cars, telecommunication and industrial machines. Copper has the second highest thermal conductivity at room temperature among pure metals and is thus the preferred metal used in electrical applications. As the world electrifies in the name of the green transformation and rapid urbanization continues in Asia, Africa, and South America, copper will continue to enjoy strong annual growth rates.

How to get exposure to copper?

Copper has been rebranded as a green metal because of its importance for the green transformation and investors are increasingly asking us how to invest in copper. The most direct way is of course to invest in high grade copper futures on COMEX (part of CME Group) with the current active contract being the Mar 2022 contract (Saxo ticker: HGH2), but the contract has a contract value of around $106,537 at current level making it inaccessible to most retail investors. One could also invest through CFD on futures (Saxo ticker on the Mar 2022 is COPPERUSMAR22) where the investor could buy 100 pounds of copper instead of 25,000 pounds in the futures reducing the contract size to $425. However, getting exposure through CFDs and futures the investor must regularly roll the contract to the next active contract, and the investor could also incur financing cost increasing the drag on performance. The chart below shows the continuous futures contract on high grade copper since 2002.

Source: Saxo Group

Few miners offer pure exposure to copper

Another way to get exposure to copper that removes the difficulties of rolling futures or CFD contracts is to invest in mining companies that extract or refine copper. The table below shows 16 mining companies with exposure to copper with Codelco, the largest copper producer in the world, absent from the list as the Chilean miner is only listed in Chile and thus not investable for our clients. The copper mining industry has delivered a median total return in USD of 132.6% over the past five years beating the global equity up 105% in the same period. The rising copper prices the past year driven by investors positioning themselves in green metals (defined as metals that will play a key role in the green transformation) which in turn has pushed up revenue in the industry by almost 40%. Sell-side analysts are generally bullish on copper miners with a median upside of 16% from current levels. In our view investors should select one or two copper miners to get exposure and avoid the ETFs on the industry as they are too broad-based and lack the pure exposure profile needed to play the copper market.

NameMarket cap (USD mn)F12M EV/EBITDARevenue growth (%)Price-to-target (%)5Y return (USD)Revenue from copper (%)
Antofagasta PLC18,8715.143.83.4166.684.8
First Quantum Minerals Ltd14,9625.141.920.9111.384.2
Southern Copper Corp45,9448.639.73.1128.981.6
KGHM Polska Miedz SA7,0263.828.326.480.073.8
Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd9,8437.244.637.827.371.0
OZ Minerals Ltd6,3977.638.7-6.1288.460.0
Glencore PLC *65,8904.5-7.513.978.239.0
Boliden AB9,2915.126.23.768.135.0
Freeport-McMoRan Inc57,0805.755.513.2193.333.7
Teck Resources Ltd14,4683.928.719.922.027.0
BHP Group Ltd131,0464.041.718.6136.426.0
Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd39,9258.827.452.1396.422.7
Anglo American PLC47,3423.559.015.7262.822.3
MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC47,4795.127.113.5191.120.6
Rio Tinto PLC98,4973.639.515.8149.211.5
Vale SA60,3292.577.287.6111.45.5
Aggregate / median674,3895.139.615.7132.634.4
Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group
* EBITDA contribution as Glencore does not breakdown revenue split on metals

As the table also show, there is no such thing as pure exposure to copper except for futures, options and CFDs on the underlying copper. The miner with the highest revenue exposure to copper is Antofagasta with 84.8% revenue share from copper extraction and refining. Most copper miners also extract gold and silver as part of their copper operations. Out of the 16 copper miners in our list, only 6 of these miners have more than 50% of revenue coming from copper extraction and refining.

Outlook and risks

High grade copper futures have been range trading for more than half a year as slowing demand out of China due to a slowdown in housing construction has weighed on the demand side. On the positive side inventories have been tight in copper which has helped support the copper price and the global pipeline of new copper mines, but also potential tax charges in Chile and Peru (roughly around 40% of global supply) could negative impact supply and keep copper prices high. The annualized growth rate in global refined copper demand has been around 3% in the period 2009-2020.

China has for many years been the key driver of demand growth for copper, but going forward electrification (electric vehicles and air-to-water heat pumps and urbanization in India will begin to play a bigger marginal role on demand creating a more steady and diversified demand picture. In 2022, demand outside China will be driven by construction, grid infrastructure, and transport. Another risk to copper demand is significantly higher interest rates next year as that would curtail growth in construction which is interest rate sensitive.


The Saxo Bank Group entities each provide execution-only service and access to Analysis permitting a person to view and/or use content available on or via the website. This content is not intended to and does not change or expand on the execution-only service. Such access and use are at all times subject to (i) The Terms of Use; (ii) Full Disclaimer; (iii) The Risk Warning; (iv) the Rules of Engagement and (v) Notices applying to Saxo News & Research and/or its content in addition (where relevant) to the terms governing the use of hyperlinks on the website of a member of the Saxo Bank Group by which access to Saxo News & Research is gained. Such content is therefore provided as no more than information. In particular no advice is intended to be provided or to be relied on as provided nor endorsed by any Saxo Bank Group entity; nor is it to be construed as solicitation or an incentive provided to subscribe for or sell or purchase any financial instrument. All trading or investments you make must be pursuant to your own unprompted and informed self-directed decision. As such no Saxo Bank Group entity will have or be liable for any losses that you may sustain as a result of any investment decision made in reliance on information which is available on Saxo News & Research or as a result of the use of the Saxo News & Research. Orders given and trades effected are deemed intended to be given or effected for the account of the customer with the Saxo Bank Group entity operating in the jurisdiction in which the customer resides and/or with whom the customer opened and maintains his/her trading account. Saxo News & Research does not contain (and should not be construed as containing) financial, investment, tax or trading advice or advice of any sort offered, recommended or endorsed by Saxo Bank Group and should not be construed as a record of our trading prices, or as an offer, incentive or solicitation for the subscription, sale or purchase in any financial instrument. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, would be considered as a marketing communication under relevant laws.

Please read our disclaimers:
- Notification on Non-Independent Investment Research (https://www.home.saxo/legal/niird/notification)
- Full disclaimer (https://www.home.saxo/en-gb/legal/disclaimer/saxo-disclaimer)

Saxo Markets
40 Bank Street, 26th floor
E14 5DA
United Kingdom

Support Centre
For existing clients, please click here to request support via the Support Centre.

Have a question about our products, platforms or services? Visit the Support Centre to find answers for our most frequently asked questions. If you are still unable to locate an answer to your question, you will also find contact details for your local Saxo office to speak with a representative.

Contact Saxo

Select region

United Kingdom
United Kingdom

Trade Responsibly
All trading carries risk. To help you understand the risks involved we have put together a series of Key Information Documents (KIDs) highlighting the risks and rewards related to each product. Read more
Additional Key Information Documents are available in our trading platform.

Saxo Markets is a registered Trading Name of Saxo Capital Markets UK Ltd (‘SCML’). SCML is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Firm Reference Number 551422. Registered address: 26th Floor, 40 Bank Street, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DA. Company number 7413871. Registered in England & Wales.

This website, including the information and materials contained in it, are not directed at, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in the United States, Belgium or any other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to applicable law or regulation.

It is important that you understand that with investments, your capital is at risk. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. It is your responsibility to ensure that you make an informed decision about whether or not to invest with us. If you are still unsure if investing is right for you, please seek independent advice. Saxo Markets assumes no liability for any loss sustained from trading in accordance with a recommendation.

Apple, iPad and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Android is a trademark of Google Inc.