Tag Archive

South Africa’s mines minister calls for quick platinum wage deal

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

CARLETONVILLE, South Africa (Reuters) – Platinum mining firms and South African trade unions should conclude wage talks quickly to avoid the protracted disputes that led to a five-month strike two years ago, mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane said on Friday.

“I wish that everybody can negotiate with cool heads and avoid a strike and speedily resolve these negotiations,” he told reporters at a Sibanye Gold mine.

Talks between unions and the mining companies started this week.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the biggest union in the sector, is demanding pay hikes of more than 50 percent, while a smaller union, the National Union of Mineworkers, is seeking a 20 percent increase.

The demands are well above inflation at 6.1 percent. Africa’s most developed economy is struggling due to lower commodity prices and drought. The International Monetary Fund estimates almost zero growth this year.

South Africa has the biggest and most lucrative platinum reserves but labour unrest and regulatory uncertainty have dampened investor appeal.

The strike in 2014, which was led by AMCU, hit Anglo American Platinum , Impala Platinum and Lonmin, forcing them to cut jobs, sell mines and, in some cases, make cash calls to investors.


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Joe Brock)

Read more

South Africa’s Amplats warns H1 profit to fall at least 20%

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) expects its half-year profit to fall by at least 20 percent due to weaker metal prices, the South African miner said on Tuesday.

Platinum prices have been hurt by growth concerns in China and oversupply worries which have forced firms to abandon projects and sell mines.

Amplats, which produces around 40 percent of the world’s platinum group metals, said it would make a further announcement once it had determined a likely range for its headline earnings per share.

Headline EPS, which strips out certain one-off items, is the main profit measure in South Africa.

Shares in Amplats were little changed at 379.09 rand, largely in line with the blue-chip JSE Top-40 index.

Amplats, a unit of global mining group Anglo American, is focusing on newer and more mechanised mines and removing unprofitable ounces following a record five-month strike in 2014.

Amplats, along with rivals Impala Platinum and Lonmin, is due to start wage talks with unions at the end of June, when the current deal expires.

The National Union of Mineworkers will demand pay increases of 20 percent per year for the next two years while demands from the larger Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union are not yet known.


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; editing by Jason Neely)

Read more

South Africa’s AMCU union launches strike at Sibanye’s Kroondal mine

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Workers began an indefinite strike at Sibanye Gold’s Kroondal platinum mine in South Africa on Friday to demand transport because they were being attacked after working night shifts, their union said.

“The company doesn’t want to provide transport for its employees and these are basic conditions of employment,” Joseph Mathunjwa, president of South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) told Reuters.

AMCU is the main union at the Kroondal mine located in the Rustenburg platinum belt and has about 7,000 workers.

Sibanye’s spokesman James Wellsted said the gold and platinum producer would seek a court order to stop the strike because it was negatively affecting output.

“With metal prices being low for AMCU to now go on strike over issues that are being dealt with is irresponsible. This poses a threat of to the viability of the mine,” he said.

AMCU led a record and sometimes violent five-month wage strike at three major platinum producers in 2014.

Unions and platinum companies are expected to start wage talks in the next few weeks.

Sibanye acquired the Kroondal mine when it bought Aquarius Platinum in October last year for $295 million.



(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by James Macharia)

Read more

Lonmin will not shy away from merger or takeover

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Platinum producer Lonmin will not “shy away” from any merger or takeover but for now the company is focused on its plan to survive tough market conditions, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Like its peers, Lonmin is battling sharp falls in commodities prices amid a supply glut and slowing demand growth in top consumer China. Its share price has tumbled by more than 95 percent since the start of 2015.

This has led to market speculation about a possible takeover of the 107-year old company and some analysts have said efforts so far to turn the company around were not enough despite cost cuts and a deeply discounted rights issue in December.

However, no concrete news has emerged.

“We are continuously looking at options to maximise value for our shareholders and all other stakeholders. Should it be of benefit to our shareholders and stakeholders it’s not something we would shy away from,” CEO Ben Magara told Reuters at a mining conference in Cape Town when asked if he would consider takeover offers.

He declined to say if Lonmin was in any talks with any potential parties.

The price of platinum has fallen about 30 percent year-on-year, forcing miners to sell assets and cut production and jobs. Around two-thirds of the industry, whose mines were damaged by the five-month strike in 2014, are making losses.

Magara said the company was for now focused on turning cash positive in a low price environment – which involves closing high-cost shafts and cutting jobs.

“That’s what I am worrying about. The investors have given us money and we must deliver. Investors are asking if we are going to deliver on this,” Magara said.

Hurt by a prolonged 2014 strike, rising costs and the plunging platinum price, Lonmin raised $400 million through a cash call in December.

The rights issue was undersubscribed even though it was deeply discounted, forcing the company’s underwriters to buy shares in the company and showed that investors were losing faith in the beleaguered mining sector.

The shares were priced at just a penny each on Nov. 9, a 94 percent discount to the stock’s previous session closing price of 16.25 pence on the London Stock Exchange

“I have no doubt that there will be pressure on us when we finally start making money. Will we go and put it in a project first or will we pay investors?” Magara said.

“I think it’s important that investors will get their money back first. They deserve it.”

Lonmin has said it will continue to review its services and reduce costs, mainly through job reduction, as the slide in the price of its main commodity bites further.

“We have seen cycles come and go and I suppose this shall pass but I have to admit, it’s one of the worst I have seen,” Magara said.


(By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Editing by James Macharia and David Evans)

Read more

Platinum producer Lonmin cuts jobs and costs

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Lonmin said on Thursday it would continue to review its services and reduce costs, mainly through job cuts, as the sliding price of platinum bites further.

The company said labour costs fell 194 million rand ($11.8 million) in the last three months of 2015 after it shed 5,077 jobs, or 84.6 percent of its planned reduction in headcount.

“Progress continues with the restructuring programme due to the new benchmarked operating model and removal of high-cost production to ensure the business remains viable,” Lonmin said in a statement.

It is targeting savings of 700 million rand in 2016.

Hurt by a 2014 strike, rising costs and a plunging platinum price, Lonmin raised $400 million through a cash call in December which failed to find favour with shareholders and priced shares at about a penny each.

Some of the proceeds of the rights issue were used to pay down debt, leaving the company with $69 million in cash at end of December.

The miner said production of refined platinum reached 171,441 ounces in the three months to the end of December, up 22.6 percent from a year earlier.

The price of platinum has been on the decline for about five years. It fell 26 percent last year and is trading at less than half its 2011 peak.

Shares in Lonmin have lost nearly all of their value over the last year. It was the worst-hit of three top platinum miners by the 2014 five-month labour stoppage.

Lonmin maintained its full-year production guidance of 700,000 platinum ounces and its capital expenditure plan of $132 million despite projecting sustained weaker metal prices.

($1 = 16.3897 rand)


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; editing by David Clarke and Jason Neely)

Read more

Zimbabwe platinum mines seek lower royalty fees amid low prices

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe should reduce the royalty fee levied on platinum producers from the current 10 percent to help mining firms offset the impact of low prices, the country’s mining chamber has said.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest known deposits of platinum after South Africa but mines have struggled with low prices, a black empowerment law forcing mines to sell more than 50 percent of the business to locals, and power shortages.

In a commentary on the 2016 budget presented to parliament in November, the Chamber of Mines said royalty fees charged on the local divisions of Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum should be cut.

“The platinum sector requires support in the form of royalty reduction to restore viability, especially during this period of depressed prices,” the mining chamber said in a statement seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Platinum prices are near seven-year lows of about $850 an ounce, hobbled by slowing demand in top consumer China and as the Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal weighs on market sentiment.

Zimbabwe charges the 10 percent royalty rate on gross platinum sales. The government expects platinum production to increase to 468,791 ounces next year from 423,288 this year.

A 15 percent platinum levy on raw exports was deferred to January 2017 to allow mines to build smelters and base metal refineries, a move the mining chamber welcomed.

“In 2016, the sector will continue to be weighed down by depressed commodity prices, power shortages, inadequate capital and an unsustainable cost structure, compounded by high electricity tariffs, high cost of funding and sub-optimal royalty,” the chamber said.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Ed Stoddard and David Clarke)

Read more

Sibanye Gold says to conclude platinum acquisitions, shrugs off lower prices

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Sibanye Gold said on Monday it remained committed to concluding the acquisition of two platinum assets despite lower prices as it awaited the approval of shareholders and South Africa’s anti-trust authorities.

The bullion producer said it expected a decision from the South African Competition Commission in March 2016 while shareholders are set to vote in January on the acquisition of Aquarius Platinum and Anglo American Platinum’s Rustenburg mine.

Platinum prices sank 16 percent in November to near seven-year lows on prospects of a U.S interest rate hike and ongoing concerns of oversupply. Despite this Sibanye said it would go ahead with the transactions.

“As highlighted when these transactions were announced, whilst near-term economic headwinds and supply side factors have resulted in downward pressure on metal prices, the long-term outlook for PGM demand remains constructive,” Chief Executive Neal Froneman said.


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Read more

Lonmin faces collapse if shareholders reject $400 mln cash call

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Lonmin, world’s No.3 platinum miner, urged shareholders to approve a $400 million equity cash call at a meeting next week, saying in a document posted on its website the injection was crucial to its survival.

Lonmin’s shares in London fell 6.8 percent to 23.93 pence by 1223 GMT. The Johannesburg-listed stock was down by 8 percent at 5.00 rand.

Battered by strikes, rising costs and weak platinum prices, Lonmin said last month it planned to raise the money and another $370 million in bank loans to refinance debt due in May 2016.

The firm, founded in 1909 as the London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company, said that if shareholders do not approve the rights issue at a meeting on Nov. 19, lenders would not provide the loans to push back the maturity of the 2016 debt to 2020.

“As a result, the group may have to cease trading at some point between December 2015 and May 2016 and shareholders could lose the entire value of their investment,” the company said on its website.

Lonmin was hit harder than other producers by the platinum mining strike in 2014, South Africa’s longest and costliest, as unlike its peers, virtually all its operations are concentrated in the strike-affected Rustenburg area.

To try to turn around its fortunes, the miner announced a plan in July to close or mothball several mine shafts, putting thousands of jobs at risk. It employs around 38,000 staff, including contractors.



The cash call has the backing of Lonmin’s third-largest shareholder, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which has said it was willing to take up more than it is entitled to. The South African government-owned PIC owns about 7 percent of Lonmin.

The company said the Bapo Community, which owns 2.24 percent of its shares, would also back the rights issue.

Other top four shareholders in the company include South Africa’s Kagiso Asset Management, Capital World Investors and Old Mutual Investment Group.

Lonmin said the new shares would be issued at a “significant discount”, underscoring a more than 80 percent tumble in its stock price over the past year.

“We see this as a particularly stark warning by Lonmin but it is a reminder of the extreme pressures faced in the South African platinum industry,” Investec said in a note.

Spot platinum has fallen by about 20 percent over the last year to levels last seen in 2009 due to oversupply concerns and slowing demand in top consumer China.


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Louise Heavens, Reuters)

Read more

Sibanye raises platinum gamble with Aquarius deal

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Sibanye Gold has offered $294 million to buy Aquarius Platinum, making its second big bet on a platinum sector hammered by falling prices and rising costs.

The deal, announced on Tuesday, would put South Africa’s third-largest gold producer by value into the global top five producers of platinum group metals with annual output of more than a million ounces.

It is the second big deal in the sector for Sibanye, which bought the labour-intensive and costly Rustenburg operations of Anglo American Platinum last month.

Sibanye, a spin-off of Gold Fields, is capitalising on a platinum sector shake-up following an unprecedented five-month strike last year and weakening platinum prices that have hit profitability and raised costs in much of the industry.

Under the terms of the deal, Sibanye offered 19.5 U.S. cents, or 2.66 rand, per Aquarius share, a 56 percent and 60.3 percent premium to Monday’s closing prices in Johannesburg and London respectively. The offer values Aquarius at $294 million.

Aquarius’ shares in Johannesburg soared 40 percent at one point to 2.48 rand, slightly below the offer price, and was 34 percent higher at 1230 GMT.

The stock was up 37 percent in London. Shares in Sibanye advanced over 10 percent to 19.74 rand.

The offer is backed by Aquarius’ board but requires shareholder approval.

In Aquarius, Sibanye would be taking on two low cost and mechanised mines in South Africa and Zimbabwe, which together holds the world’s largest platinum reserves.

For Aquarius, the deal would allow its shareholders to exit the industry whose gloomy outlook was compounded late last month by disclosures Volkswagen AG falsified U.S. vehicle emission tests. Platinum was trading at $916.75 an ounce on Tuesday, having hit a near seven-year low of $888 on Friday.



“Everybody is saying prices cannot stay this low forever. Sibanye is shaking things up in the sector, they are taking advantage where everybody is saying there is value but nobody is doing anything about it,” said Richard Hart, an analyst at Arqaam Capital.

Sibanye Chief Executive Neal Froneman said he saw no job cuts on the horizon at his new asset. Lay-offs are politically-sensitive in South Africa, where unions say up to 22,000 mining jobs are current on the line and the unemployment rate is over 25 percent.

There are about 1,500 employees at Aquarius’ Mimosa mine in Zimbabwe and 8,500 at the Kroondal operation in South Africa, where the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction recently ousted arch rival the National Union of Mineworkers as the dominant union in the shafts.

Froneman said “we remain on the lookout” for assets but he did not expect to acquire anything else in the short term with a focus now on “bedding the new acquisitions down.”

Asked specifically if he wanted to snap up any assets from rival Harmony Gold, which is battling to stay profitable, Froneman said he was not interested.

He also said the company remained committed to its policy of paying a steady dividend of between 25 and 35 percent of normalised earnings.

Sibanye’s gold assets are older mines that generate good cash flow even at current prices and because of their age do not need huge investments, freeing money for shareholders.

The group’s production profile will now be about 60 percent gold and 40 percent platinum.

HSBC, which was the financial advisor to Sibanye, agreed to arrange a $300 million acquisition funding package.

($1 = 13.6725 rand)

(By Ed Stoddard, Reuters)

Read more