Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.NYSE, ABX.TSX), the world’s largest gold company, has agreed to pay US$7.68 billion for Equinox Minerals (EQN.TSX, EQN.ASX), topping an offer by Minmetals Resources (1208.HK, the Hong Kong-listed branch of China Minmetals) in a race for increasingly scarce copper assets, Reuters reported. Toronto-based Barrick offered to acquire Equinox for US$8.54 a share, an 8.7% premium over its Thursday closing price. The all-cash bid is 16% higher than the US$6.6 billion that Minmetals offered on April 3. Equinox shares rose 11.6% in Toronto after the announcement on Monday, reflecting investor confidence that a higher bid could yet be made by Minmetals. Meanwhile, Barrick shares were down 6.7%, signaling investors’ doubts on whether a big move into the industrial metal sector would make the stock less attractive to those seeking exposure to gold prices.