Western Areas managing director Dan Lougher says the Glencore-Xstrata merger could be the catalyst for a wave of acquisition activity in the WA nickel sector this year, with the new global giant primed to gobble up a number of local assets.
Mr Lougher, who steered the third-biggest nickel producer in the country through a tumultuous 2012, said the $86 billion tie-up between Glencore and Xstrata would have a big impact on the WA nickel market this year.
Although he would not go into specifics, Mr Lougher said he wanted Western Areas to be "part of anything that happens".
"It comes down to what they see in the WA and Australian nickel market and how they want to be a part of that," Mr Lougher said.
"Because at the moment all they've got is Minara (Resources) and what's left of (fellow WA nickel producer) Jubilee Mines.
"And I would be surprised if that's all they would be happy with in WA . . . (and) in regards to Western Areas, put it this way, when it happens we don't want to be on the sidelines watching and looking in."
Reflecting on last year when the nickel price lagged and Western Areas' share price followed suit, Mr Lougher admitted it had been "tough".
Western Areas shares began last year at $5.08 and finished at $4.46. Along the way the company conducted a surprise $65 million capital raising and also deflected theories that the nickel price was putting pressure on its bottom line.
Mr Lougher said he saw this year as a growth year for nickel as the China story came back on track.
In response to shrinking margins, Western Areas' nickel- focused peers such as Panoramic Resources and Mincor Resources had invested heavily in diversifying into other commodities, particularly gold.
Mr Lougher said although diversification was discussed regularly, Western Areas was likely to remain a pure nickel play.