ENRC in truce between board, founders

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Reuters.

Kazakh miner ENRC, on a charm offensive to repair its bruised reputation, said its board and founders have settled their differences after a storm last year that prompted a major governance review.

Tensions between the trio of founder shareholders, who own almost 44 percent of ENRC shares, and some board members spilled over into a public spat last year that saw two well-known independent non-executive directors abruptly voted off.

The two directors said they had been pushed out in a dispute over who ran the company - the board or the founders.

Sources close to the matter said at the time that one founder, Alexander Mashkevitch, had sought to become a director and possibly chairman.

Chairman Mehmet Dalman, appointed to the top job in February after last year's governance review, said the relationship with the board was working and there was no sign the founders would attempt to join their ranks.

“They trust us to get on with it,” he told analysts at a Wednesday briefing on governance, adding the founders had no role in the miner's day-to-day operations or choice of deals.

Dalman, on a major push to shake off ENRC's reputation for poor governance that has seen its shares underperform the sector in recent months, also told analysts he was reviewing its portfolio of assets and was not inclined to embark on new deals.

UK-listed ENRC has expanded aggressively outside its ferroalloys and Kazakh base since 2008, growing in Africa and Brazil, but Dalman said he had called a “halt” to deals while he reviews strategy.

“We have no new major plans to make acquisitions,” he said, though the company will continue to review opportunities.

Dalman had said on Tuesday the group was considering spin-offs, separate listings and joint ventures as part of plans to grow a business that has limited access to equity markets, given a freefloat of less than 20 percent.

He said on Wednesday divestments were “incredibly possible”.

“We may not be in that much of a hurry in the current market environment,” he said, adding lower valuations had brought suitors to the negotiating table.

“(But) I'd be disappointed if we don't get on with things ... I get impatient if things don't begin to move.”

Dalman again signalled the group could consider a strategic partner for its Brazilian iron ore operations, or sell non-core assets such as its stake of about 14 percent in Northam Platinum , getting out of South Africa's troubled platinum sector after just over two years.

“Are we ever really going to become a major player in (South African platinum)? I don't think so,” Dalman said, vowing to “really question” some of ENRC's acquisitions.

A former investment banker, Dalman led ENRC's merger and acquisition committee through much of its overseas growth spurt and still sits on the group's now-renamed investment committee.

Dalman said he stood by deals in Congo including the acquisition of assets expropriated from Canada's First Quantum that damaged the group's reputation, but acknowledged an “ugly punch-up” between the two miners could have been avoided.

The two sides settled their dispute in January. - Reuters


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