LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The chief executive of Anglo American (AAL.L), one of the world’s largest diversified miners, said divesting the strike-afflicted platinum division could be an option if it does not perform as well as the others.
Anglo American’s Amplats (AMSJ.J), the world’s top platinum producer, and rivals Impala Platinum (IMPJ.J) and Lonmin (LMI.L) are together battling an almost 10-week-old mining strike over wages, which has slashed about 40 percent of global production of the precious metal.
The hit from the strike means Anglo could reconsider what place platinum holds in its portfolio in the future, the company’s boss said in an interview on the sidelines of the FT commodities global summit.
“We like platinum longer term... but at the same time every asset has to deliver return and if the business can’t deliver return than we’ll look at all options,” said chief executive Mark Cutifani when asked whether he would consider divesting the platinum division.
“Platinum has been one area that has struggled and certainly not because the team is not doing a good job but because we have the strike and in the end we have to make tough decisions. I hope the guys come back to work so that we can at least work on what the future might look like but at the moment it doesn’t look good.”
Anglo Platinum said on Tuesday it has sent force majeure notices to some of the suppliers to its South African mines, underscoring the widening economic impact of the strike.
Amplats chief executive Chris Griffith said on Friday Amplats was unlikely to declare force majeure to customers, an industry term for when a producer is unable to supply due to forces beyond its control.
Anglo is still producing about 60 percent of its platinum capacity from some mines that are not affected by the strikes.
Cutifani said that will allow the company to go ahead for months without depleting its inventories.
The longer the strike continues however, the higher the chances that some of the shafts might not reopen once activity restarts, the Anglo boss said.
“Certainly Chris (Griffith) has made it very clear to the guys that every day that they stay out they place longer term employment at risk and I think that’s a very serious risk that everyone has to think about,” he said.
Anglo is also starting to dips its toes in iron ore derivatives, a market supported by competitor BHP Billiton BHO.AX BLT.L that has gained popularity among financial players and trading houses in the last few years.
“We are in the market, looking at how we get the best prices for iron ore and we are looking at all of those options so it’s more in the context of making sure we get the best price for our product,” Cutifani said asked about the company starting to use the iron derivatives.
Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama