Should workers be worried as Amplats sells assets?

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FOLLOWING Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats’) decision to sell its Rustenburg and Union mines as well as exit from its Pandora joint venture on Monday, the big question is: who will be the suitable buyer?

The company announced plans to sell the Union mine and concentrators north of Rustenburg in January last year. The Rustenburg operations and Pandora joint venture “will be better placed in the hands of new owners”, it said on Monday.

On Monday, Amplats chief executive Chris Griffith said a number of suitors had indicated interest to purchase the assets, adding that the formal talks with potential buyers could officially begin.

The government, through the state-owned mining company, is a possible contender. Should it buy the mines, the issue will be money.

The assets burn cash, they are deep level underground mines, high-cost and labour intensive.

Then there are the Chinese, who are resource-hungry to meet the appetite for jewellery in that country. They have a different attitude to labour relations and are unlikely to bow to the high expectation of labour.

Unfortunately, the chickens have come home to roost for the mineworkers who went on a protected strike over wages. The silence of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which led the five-month strike, has been deafening.

The sale of Amplats assets means that the staff headcount will be reduced from 50 000 to about 20 000. The company said it was consulting with the government and expected to speak with its employees and other stakeholders in due course.

Online shopping

While companies are pressing on with investments in online shopping facilities, South African consumers still want to have that “touchy feely” experience.

According to an Accenture survey aimed at understanding shopper preferences, 35 percent of South Africans surveyed said retailers needed to improve the in-store experience. This was compared with just 15 percent who said the same of online shopping.

Accenture surveyed 15 000 adult consumers in 20 countries. Each country’s respondents, including South Africa, represented 750 adult consumers, or 5 percent, of the total. About 46 percent of the local shoppers still lean towards purchasing in-store, while 25 percent wanted to carry purchases home.

This was opposite to the 37 percent of global shoppers who preferred online over in-store purchasing. South African shoppers would rather wait for the store to open the next morning than to shop online.

This, however does not mean that retailers do not get visitors to their online sites. In fact, they do. This is because more consumers were now using online facilities to check stock availability and carry out some price research.

The Ernst &Young report, “Consumers on board: how to co-pilot the multichannel journey”, which surveyed 30 000 consumers in 34 countries, agrees.

It said many people used technology to filter information and make purchasing decisions. The study also found that buying food and beverages as well as clothes online continued to lag global norms.

Sean Katzen, retail managing director at Accenture SA, believes that for retailers to get the consumer to press the “buy” button, delivery must be a seamless experience across all retail points.

He said retailers that were able to integrate the physical store with their digital capabilities among analytics to support new models of customer engagements, could gain a true competitive advantage.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Dineo Faku and Nompumelelo Magwaza.


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