Mantashe adopts a conciliatory stance amid Anglo’s platinum unit shake-up

South Africa’s mines minister has adopted a conciliatory stance as Anglo American Plc plans to separate its platinum unit amidst a major restructuring following rejections from BHP Group. The move contrasts with previous frostiness towards BHP’s proposals. The upheaval in the mining sector coincides with political tensions ahead of elections.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.

By William Clowes

South Africa’s mines minister struck a conciliatory tone as Anglo American Plc announced plans to separate its platinum unit as part of a major shakeup following its rejection of two approaches from BHP Group.

“It is their strategy and they must do anything that will optimize value,” Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe said by phone.

That marks a contrast with the senior official’s frostier reaction to rival BHP’s proposal, which involves spinning off both Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. before acquiring the miner’s prized assets outside South Africa.

The platinum unit known as Amplats fell as much as 10% in Johannesburg trading, after Anglo unveiled its restructuring plan on Tuesday.

The upheaval in South Africa’s key mining industry comes at a difficult time for the ruling African National Congress, which risks losing its majority in elections later this month for the first time since coming to power in 1994.

Under the turnaround plan outlined Tuesday by Anglo Chief Executive Officer Duncan Wanblad, the London-listed miner will exit platinum and diamond mines in South Africa, while retaining its Kumba iron ore subsidiary and a stake in a manganese business.

Wanblad said the company would have liked to make its announcement after the South African election and that it was “completely disrespectful” to do so now. Still, he said BHP had forced his hand by making an approach.

Anglo said it will demerge its 79% stake in Amplats “in a responsible and orderly way,” separate or sell its De Beers diamond business and divest its coking coal mines in Australia. The overhaul plans have been accelerated by BHP’s £34 billion ($43 billion) takeover proposal to acquire the 107-year-old firm.

Anglo has long ties to South Africa and was built on the riches of the country’s gold mines before moving into diamonds. In recent decades, however, the company has rapidly accumulated assets overseas including the South American copper mines that are so coveted by BHP.

Mantashe had signaled his opposition to BHP’s twice-rebuffed proposal for Anglo to demerge its controlling interests in its South African platinum and iron ore units, telling Bloomberg on April 25 that he “wouldn’t support” the idea.

Amplats – the world’s largest platinum producer – “will survive” as a standalone company, said Mantashe who also chairs the ANC. “It’s leading in the platinum business.”

Shares of Amplats were down 7% as of 11:03 a.m. in Johannesburg.

Anglo’s second-biggest shareholder, South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., will continue to engage with both companies after noting both Anglo’s accelerated strategy and its rejection of BHP’s improved offer, PIC Chairman David Masondo said by email. The PIC manages the pensions of South African government workers.

“The PIC is a long-term investor and any transaction presented will be assessed to ensure value creation for our clients,” said Masondo, who is also South Africa’s deputy finance minister.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s biggest federation of labor groups, said it welcomed Anglo’s commitment to the country.

“We need a commitment that whatever changes Anglo plans include the needs of its loyal employees,” Cosatu said in a response to queries. “Anglo’s professed commitment to South Africa is welcome.” 

The labor federation has previously said it opposed BHP’s bid.

Read also:

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Visited 350 times, 350 visit(s) today