Sunday, December 17, 2017
Neal Froneman

Neal Froneman

Sibanye Gold

NEAL Froneman completed some R5bn in platinum acquisitions – Aquarius Platinum and Rustenburg Platinum Mines – in 2016, but nothing could prepare the market for the bombshell that was his R30bn tilt at Stillwater Mining Corporation, a piece of corporate sorcery that, if consummated, will make Sibanye ‘Gold’ the world’s third largest platinum and palladium producer. Clearly, Froneman is thinking far bigger than most imagined: the deal will allow Sibanye to earn dollars and drive down its cost of capital which must surely pave the way for the further internationalisation of the firm. And it’s been coming. Froneman’s exasperation with the business and political climate in South Africa has been frequently articulated. In November, he declared the country was at a tipping point; that the government’s ad hoc, virtually unilateral regulatory changes would lead the sector into diminishment and disaster. As deputy president of the Chamber of Mines, he is playing a role in it becoming a stauncher voice of opposition to the government. Stillwater is a massive undertaking and far from a slam dunk. For starters, Froneman will need support for a R10bn plus rights issue. As a marker, however, the transaction demonstrates Froneman’s fearlessness and contrarion nature, deploying more than the firm’s market value at a time when miners are extra careful in deploying capital given the ‘sins of the past’.

LIFE OF NEAL

Born in Johannesburg and qualified as a mechanical engineer at the University of the Witwatersrand, Froneman has held down senior positions at Harmony Gold, Gold Fields and JCI. An entrepreneur at heart, he flew his Uranium One too close to the sun, crashed, and burned ... only to rise again as CEO of Gold One before forming Sibanye Gold through the reversal of assets from Gold Fields. Outspoken, driven, decisive, and with a love of fast cars and flying machines, Froneman is the proverbial rolling stone.

“It’s very clear, we sit on a knife edge as an industry.”