Johannesburg - The disposal of key assets by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) was likely to be highly politically sensitive, a test of what “mineral resource nationalism” really meant as a policy, Peter Attard Montalto, a London-based executive director and emerging markets economist at Japanese investment bank Nomura, said yesterday.
The mining firm told the market last Monday of its plan to divest its Rustenburg operations and possibly dispose of two joint ventures. It had previously said it would sell its Union mine.
The firm aid it had spoken to the Department of Mineral Resources about the sale and would begin talks with suitable candidates for the assets.
It preferred to disinvest from the assets through a sale or list them if it did not get an appropriate price.
“We think this presents a fascinating opportunity for those in favour of nationalisation to partner with the state, unions and others to try to run a mine,” Attard Montalto wrote yesterday.
At the same time the ANC said it preferred a local company to buy the mines but it would not try and influence the deal.
“Our dream is to have a South African mining champion,” ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who formerly headed the National Union of Mineworkers, told reporters, according to Reuters.
“It would be quite important to have a South African company buying those assets but it is not a choice of the ANC. We are not going to go to Amplats and say: ‘select this consortium’.”
Amplats’s total workforce is 50 000, and more than half will be affected when it sells its Rustenburg operations.
Amplats had held talks with unions before announcing it was looking for buyers, Franz Stehring, the head of mining at union Uasa, told Bloomberg yesterday.
Amplats told the unions it would do a due diligence study on the value of the assets, according to Stehring.
“If I don’t get my price I won’t sell the mines,” Stehring cited company officials as saying. Amplats had said it might consider a separate listing if it did not receive bids reflecting the company’s view of the assets’ value, Stehring said.
Uasa is the largest representative of workers in a bargaining unit for supervisors at Amplats.
Amplats’s first-half profit dropped 88 percent because of a five-month wage strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
Chief executive Chris Griffith said previously that the strike had not influenced Amplats’s decision to exit from the assets.
“We do not totally accept Amplats’s statement that the strike had nothing to do with its decision,” Attard Montalto said.
Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole was not available for comment yesterday.