Moodys: Strikes remain a risk

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Moodys REUTERS Moodys.

Johannesburg - The decentralised wage negotiation process in the platinum sector adds to the unpredictability of the current negotiations, credit rating agency Moodys said on Monday.

“This process could lead to unions playing the companies off against each other to push wages higher, which could also lead to renewed strike action by workers to gain parity with higher wages agreed at other mining companies,” said vice president and senior analyst Gianmarco Migliavaca.

However, Moodys did not see a temporary loss of production as a major credit risk for Anglo American Platinum.

This was because of its considerable stockpiles of platinum above the ground, said Migliavaca.

This would allow Amplats to meet its supply requirements for about two months.

“In the short-term, the platinum miners' strike may actually be credit positive for Amplats,” he said.

Amplats would be able to sell its platinum at higher prices and would benefit from a weaker rand.

The mining company's costs were primarily paid in rand, but its revenue was received in US dollars.

Moodys published its sector comment on Monday titled “South African Platinum Mines strike raises wage pressure risks, but Amplats able to weather short-term disruptions”.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) workers went on strike at Impala Platinum, Lonmin, and Amplats mines on Thursday.

The union is demanding R12,500 per month for entry-level workers, but the platinum companies have said this is not affordable.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is acting as a mediator in the negotiations.

Moodys said Amplats would be able to weather the storm because its profitable mine Mogalakwena was operating at full production because its workforce was represented by another union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

“In addition, Amplats' adequate liquidity should outlast the time its labour force could sustain itself without pay,” said Migliavaca.

“This could play an important part towards a final settlement nearer the company's wage offers.”

There was some risk of a knock-on effect of strike action at gold mines, because Amcu represented about 17 percent of workers in the sector and had announced its intention to strike.

This would affect gold mining companies AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye Gold and Harmony.

“However, the gold mining companies have already agreed wage increases with the majority union, NUM, which represents 72 percent of workers, and other unions are required to accept these increases under a collective bargaining regime,” said Migliavaca.

“Amcu says that it can still strike at mines where it holds a majority, but has agreed to delay strike action until a labour court has reached a verdict (expected on Wednesday) on the legality of the strikes.”

He said if strikes went ahead in the gold sector, production would stop at two of AngloGold Ashanti's mines, Mponeng and TauTona, where Amcu held the majority.

However, the strike action would be modest, because only 14 percent of total attributable production and 12 percent of operating profit came from these mines.

The gold price was unlikely to be affected by the Amcu-led strike.

Moodys expected the strike action to remain an ongoing risk for all mining companies operating in the country, said Migliavaca. - Sapa



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