2016 cannot have been a good year for Clinton Ephron. Although he maintains his cheery, but low-key disposition in public, the bust-up with Eskom over Optimum Coal Mines has resulted in his division losing out big-time to the Gupta family network. Those of you who were around in the Seventies may remember a Peter Sellers movie titled: “Where does it Hurt?” which spoofed the commercial side of American hospitals. Sellers’ answer to that question at one point was “in the wallet” and that’s where the Gupta family have hit Glencore. Having to put Optimum into business rescue proceedings; then agree to sell it to the Guptas at a knock-down price, and then have to issue – no doubt through gritted teeth – a statement to the effect that “Glencore is pleased with the transaction”, must have been grindingly annoying. But the real sting in the tail was when the news broke that the Guptas were selling Optimum’s export rights through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) for a reputed R3.6bn. Worse still, the rights were being sold to international coal trading firm Vitol which is one of Glencore’s major trading rivals. Even worse could yet come if Vitol manages in its bid to become a member of the RBCT, although that is still subject to a decision by the RBCT board of which, of course, Ephron is a key member.
LIFE OF CLINTON
He’s an accountant holding a BCom and BAcc from the University of the Witwatersrand and he’s been running Glencore’s coal operations in South Africa since about 2005 with a particular involvement on the marketing side. He’s a director of the RBCT in which Glencore is a major shareholder.
“We’ve been left with no choice because of the penalties.”
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