WHILE Venkatakrishnan – ‘Venkat’ - can look back on 2016 with considerable satisfaction as free cash flow soared; debt was reduced, and new, low-cost developments like Tropicana just got better and better, he faced two particular problems in South Africa and Ghana. Production from the South African mines fell materially because of lower grades and the impact of persistent Section 54 stoppages – which some observers linked to the attack on President Jacob Zuma made by AngloGold chairman, Sipho Pityana, in October. In Ghana, the mothballed Obuasi mine was overrun by thousands of illegal miners in January. Venkat tore his hair out as the Ghanaian government sat back and let it happen for reasons which have yet to be explained. AngloGold took legal action against the Ghanaian government which finally responded in November, but the damage had been done. All of the group’s growth projects are now outside of South Africa and feeling is that Venkat could well revisit plans for a split between AngloGold Ashanti’s South African and foreign operations – particularly now that the debt situation, which scuppered the last attempt in 2014, is under control. Amid bold merger and acquisition efforts among his South African gold peers, Venkat is keeping a low profile preferring to rely on the group’s organic growth options.
LIFE OF VENKAT
An accountant by profession, he held a senior position with Deloitte’s in London before he got bored with number-crunching and decided he wanted to “get his fingers dirty”. He entered the mining business dramatically when he was parachuted in to Ghana in 1999 to help out at Ashanti Goldfields. He signed on full-time as financial director and became CFO in AngloGold Ashanti after the merger of the two companies in 2004. He took over as AngloGold Ashanti CEO in May 2013.
“Ghana is a jurisdiction where there has never been a problem with law and order – now, there is.”
- Web Address: www.anglogoldashanti.com