BEN Magara has long known Neal Froneman’s Sibanye-Stillwater had an interest in acquiring Lonmin; it was first made known in 2014, a year after Sibanye listed in Johannesburg. In those days, however, Magara’s strategy was to nurse Lonmin back to health. Latterly, the strategy has become survival. It’s thought, therefore, that Magara forced Froneman’s hand to make a takeover bid – the R5bn all-paper offer that was eventually submitted in the dying days of 2017. In lieu of Sibanye-Stillwater’s offer, Magara was considering deep-vein surgery so drastic that a Lonmin post his restructuring wouldn’t provide the scale and synergies that Sibanye-Stillwater hopes it can extract. But the deal first needs political buy-in. Unions are disaffected as the takeover will mean job losses. Mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane may also be obstructionist in his approach, given the enmity between himself and Froneman. Quite how Cyril Ramaphosa, once a director of Lonmin but now President of the ANC, will see things is a major question. For Magara, however, the takeover by Sibanye was his ‘do-or-die’ moment. The company was making slim cash flow, but simply not developing quickly enough to provide for the mining future. Debts were piling, covenants with lenders were being broken. Magara, under the circumstances, has made decent work of an impossible job. Whether he will – or would want to – take a position in the Sibanye-Stillwater empire is a moot point.
LIFE OF BEN
Ben Magara graduated with honours in mining engineering from the University of Zimbabwe in 1990. He was CEO of Anglo Coal SA in 2006, a position he held for three years, before taking up a role in the UK group’s listed platinum subsidiary, Anglo American Platinum. He left Anglo in 2013 to take up the CEO role at Lonmin.
- Web Address: www.lonmin.com