Murray & Roberts advertising board.
JOHANNESBURG - Murray & Roberts (M&R), the listed multinational engineering and construction group that is the subject of a hostile takeover bid by German-based private investment holding firm Aton, has been awarded further new underground mining contracts valued at a total of R3.7billion.

The company reported yesterday that it had been awarded these contracts for projects in the sub-Saharan, North American and Australasian markets.

It said these awards included projects for diamond, gold, copper, salt and platinum mines that were to be delivered over a period of two to three years.

These contract awards follow M&R reporting last month that it had been awarded new underground mining contracts in the North American and Australasian markets, worth a total of R3.8bn, that would be delivered over a period of up to four years.

The group said at the time these contract awards represented an increase of about 25percent on the published underground mining platform order book of R15.3bn at end-December.

The group said yesterday that this calendar year it had been awarded a total of R7.5bn of mining project work, most of which were included in near orders in the company's results for the six months to December.

Longevity

“This growth in the order book supports market research guidance of the recovery in capex (capital expenditure) spending by mining firms globally and the view of the longevity of a mining capex cycle," it said.

M&R’s independent board last week rejected a buyout offer from Aton, claiming the offer was opportunistic and made at a time of unprecedented share price weakness.

Aton has gained the support of clients of asset manager Allan Gray that hold a 10.9percent stake in M&R in its attempted takeover.

However, M&R appears to be mobilising the group to fight off the hostile bid.

Ed Jardim, the group investor and media executive at M&R, confirmed to Business Report last week that the group has had several conversations with its major shareholders, including the Public Investment Corporation, Sanlam, Old Mutual and Visio Capital Management, on Aton’s firm intention to make an offer for all the shares in the group it did not already own.

Aton owns just less than 30percent of M&R, but disclosed last week it had entered into an agreement to purchase a further about 3.1percent of M&R’s ordinary share capital.

Shares in M&R rose 2.1percent on the JSE yesterday to close at R14.09.

- BUSINESS REPORT