GOLD Fields today confirmed the appointment of Chris Griffith, 55, as its new CEO.
The R127bn gold producer said in an announcement today that the current CEO, Nick Holland, would step down from his position in April, six months early.
Gold Fields said last year that Holland would reach the mandatory retirement age of 63, but that he may remain in place until September.
Holland will have been CEO of Gold Fields for 13 years.
Griffith is the former CEO of Anglo American Platinum (Amplats). He stepped down from the Anglo American-controlled group in April last year, making way for Natascha Viljoen, the group’s first female CEO.
Griffith was CEO of Kumba Iron Ore from 2008 to 2012.
Cheryl Carolus, chairman of Gold Fields, said Griffiths had “… deep-rooted operational mining experience” and that he had “… an impressive track record of delivering safe operational performance and leading effective change”.
She also had high praise for Holland who she acknowledged as having “… defined Gold Fields as it is today”.
“In 2008, two-thirds of our production came from South Africa; in 2020 approximately 90% emanated from outside of South Africa with all our mines highly mechanised and increasingly automated,” said Carolus.
“On behalf of the Board and all our 17,000 employees we wish him well as he takes a well-deserved break,” she said.
Speaking in a conference call, Griffith said he would keep “an open mind” on growth opportunities for the group. “Sometimes, there have been opportunities were consolidation has been a good thing and other times where it is bad,” he said.
Griffith’s struck a tone of wanting to continue Holland’s legacy, but eventually striking out on his own path of growth provided it was supported by a value argument.
Renaissance Capital said in a note that it was “extremely encouraged” by the appointment of Griffith who it said was “… instrumental as the CEO of Amplats” in driving productivity improvements as well as the repositioning of the portfolio”.
Nedbank Securities analyst Arnold van Graan said the biggest question following the appointment of Griffiths is what he would do with South Deep?
South Deep is Gold Fields South African asset that has underperformed for years, but has started to make cash following a restructuring undertaken by Holland in 2019 and amid the improvement in the gold price.
“That remains to be seen,” said Van Graan of Griffith’s view on South Deep. “But what we have said previously is that he would be in a position to take some of the hard decisions that may not have seemed possible under current management.
Griffith was non-commital on South Deep: “I haven’t looked over the plans of South Deep,” he said. “I have seen its improvement and I would prefer to continue with that before I decided on whether it should be kept (in Gold Fields) or sold.”
Shares in Gold Fields were 5.6% higher on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange today compared to a 0.9 and 2.2% improvement for AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony Gold respectively.