Who is Laurent Charbonnier, newly appointed head of Sibanye-Stillwater’s M&A?

Laurent Charbonnier, chief commercial and development officer, Sibanye-Stillwater

KEY among Sibanye-Stillwater’s latest senior management appointments is that of Laurent Charbonnier who, as the group’s chief commercial and development officer, will be responsible for “value accretive external growth”, according to an announcement on Thursday.

In other words, Charbonnier is tasked with mergers and acquisitions (M&A) which, for a company that has run through R45bn to R50bn in deals since 2016, is pretty much the role of navigator whilst CEO, Neal Froneman, white-knuckles it through the race route.

But who is Laurent Charbonnier?

“Laurent and I have worked closely since 2013 when he was the managing director of HSBC,” said Froneman in a recent interview. “There is probably not a single deal that he has not been involved in at Sibanye.” HSBC was one of the lenders in Sibanye-Stillwater’s $2bn bid for Stillwater Mining in 2016.

Charbonnier (46) also worked at UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, according to Sibanye-Stillwater’s website. At HSBC he was also global head for metals and mining. Charbonnier was educated at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris) and École Centrale Paris, a graduate school for engineering.

Sibanye-Stillwater was recently connected with merger bids for Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti after Froneman expressed an interest in the creation of a South African precious metals champion. In talking about M&A strategy, he said mining companies had to achieve better market values: at $14bn, the company was at least $6bn shy of relevance.

Said Froneman of Charbonnier: “He’s got a very good pedigree; he is super smart, and very experienced on M&A”.

Commenting on some recent appointments, which include people taking up positions in areas such as organisational growth – which hints at the growing complexity of Sibanye-Stillwater – Froneman referred to the “… next phase of our strategic growth”.

He has, though, somewhat rowed back on comments first made some 18 months ago that after on turning 60, he was turning his mind increasingly towards the prospect of retirement from Sibanye-Stillwater executive duties.

Commenting on succession, Froneman told Miningmx: “It won’t be up to me, but the board doesn’t have to look outside the company. We’ve got guys that have done extremely well in whatever field they’ve worked in”.

Would he include Justin Froneman, his son and regional CFO at Sibanye-Stillwater, in this category of potential contenders? “No. I don’t believe he does. Not in the next round.

“I believe successors are in the EVP (executive vice-president) bands, the senior vice presidents are one notch down. I can tell you categorically, that he’s not on the succession list for my departure.”