Anglo: Turnaround will take time

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Leon Nicholas

Mark Cutifani. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

London - Anglo American told investors on Thursday that its turnaround was “basic” but would take years, with no big sell-off of assets in the short term and headwinds continuing into 2014 as the company overhauls the performance of key mines.

Expectations have been high for Mark Cutifani, the Australian former boss of bullion miner AngloGold who took the helm at Anglo American earlier this year.

In July, he branded the group's performance to date as “unacceptably poor”.

But he stopped short of dramatic announcements on Thursday, a day of presentations intended to flesh out the group's strategy - warning that even the “half a dozen” assets earmarked for potential sale would be improved before a decision is made.

“It is basic stuff, it can be delivered,” Cutifani said of the company's blueprint to boost performance, a mostly operational plan which it says will see benefits flowing through largely in 2015 and 2016.

Analysts and investors have long speculated on the future of Anglo assets, including its troubled Anglo American Platinum unit and a majority stake in diamond miner De Beers.

“Longer term, or even medium to longer term, all options remain on the table,” Cutifani said ahead of presentations to investors.

“We have a bit of work to do and then we can decide whether these assets fit into the portfolio... what we won't do is go out there and sell assets for the sake of selling them.”

Cutifani said Anglo's key target of hitting a return on capital employed (ROCE)- a measure of the value a company gets out of its assets - of more than 15 percent by 2016 was calculated without including asset sales.

Instead, the necessary lift of at least $3.5 billion to operating profit would come from operational improvements.

Anglo, the smallest of the leading diversified miners, has long lagged behind its peers.

In the past two years alone it has been hit by labour troubles in South Africa, operational hiccups at copper mines and multibillion-dollar cost overruns in Brazil.

Some analysts had expected a change to targets for the troubled Brazilian iron ore project, Minas Rio, but Anglo confirmed both the cost - $8.8 billion - and the target of putting the first ore on ships at the end of next year.

Cutifani said progress at Minas Rio meant the group was “playing hard to get” in talks with potential partners, though it remained open to selling a minority stake in the operation.

Anglo also outlined changes at its key Sishen mine, the heart of Kumba Iron Ore, where it said new mining plans would help it return to production capacity by 2016.

In its pipeline of projects, where Anglo has vowed to make cuts, the miner said it was reviewing its Quellaveco copper project in Peru, which had been due to come before the board for approval this year.

That is delayed until 2015. - Reuters

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