Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Niël Pretorius

Niël Pretorius

DRDGold

NIËL Pretorius could (maybe, possibly, perhaps) be the only honest man in the South African mining sector, and we speak mindful of the lessons of ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes, who spent his life searching for an honest man, but never found one. At any rate, we writers drawing on a collective 80 years covering the African mining business, cannot remember hearing a CEO tell investors NOT to buy his company’s shares ... which is what Pretorius did last year. The reason for such an unusual step was that DRDGold shares took off - make that blasted off – during early 2016 soaring from around 150 South African cents a share to R12 on the back an excellent operating performance. This was supercharged by the gold price soaring on the back of the rand’s collapse, and then Brexit in the UK. So what’s the problem, we hear you ask? The problem – according to Pretorius – was that many investors did not fully appreciate the impact on the share price played by the extraneous factors; they bought the share at the top end expecting it to continue which, of course, it didn’t. Pretorius told “amateur” investors to steer clear of his stock and leave trading in it to the professionals, declaring: “I have been getting e-mails from investors who are not professionals. They probably bought at the high end and they are hurting now.”

LIFE OF NIËL

Pretorius has a legal background holding a B.Proc. LLB. He initially joined DRDGold as its legal adviser in May 2003 and was promoted to group legal counsel in September 2004. He was appointed GM of corporate services in April 2005 and became CEO in 2009. The key achievement on his watch has been DRDGold’s successful strategy of getting full ownership of the rehabilitated Ergo plant on which its fortunes are now soundly based.

“I don’t think they fully appreciated the volatility of the stock.”