ANGLO American chairman Stuart Chambers endorsed South Africa’s mining potential saying the appointment of Duncan Wanblad as CEO – the first South African in 15 years appointed to the position – was “distinctly advantageous” as the country was central to the firm’s investment plans.
“South Africa not only was, but is an important part of the business in terms of our investment plans, and will continue to be so,” said Chambers. “It is definitely a good thing for us (that Wanblad is South African),” he said. “He has been in and around southern Africa and South Africa for more than half his career.”
The last South African to lead Anglo American was Tony Trahar who stepped down in 2007 to be succeeded by Cynthia Carroll whom Cutifani subsequently followed.
Anglo derived 60% of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation in the six months ended June 30 from its South African assets with Anglo’s 80% stake in Anglo American Platinum and its 70% share in Kumba Iron Ore making the largest contributions.
Chambers was responding to questions following an announcement today that said Mark Cutifani would step down as CEO in April after nine years in charge. Wanblad, a mining engineer, will be formally appointed at Anglo’s annual general meeting planned for April 19.
Wanblad steps into the role following several consecutive years of earnings growth. This has led some analysts to doubt whether the momentum can be continued. “In spite of Anglo American’s robust operating momentum, strong ESG credentials, and a compelling portfolio mix, we argue that the earnings upgrade cycle has run its course,” said Morgan Stanley in a report last month.
Asked if this would be a challenge, Wanblad said: “I have to believe that Anglo American hasn’t topped out. He instead pointed to controlling inflation as one of the important challenges for Anglo in the short-term.
The group also had its hands full with delivering new projects, he said. “We have our plate full with Quellaveco and the (Woodside polyhalite) fertiliser project after that.” Anglo plans to commission its $5.2bn Quellaveco copper project in Peru in mid-2022 which is expected to deliver a 20% increase in overall volumes for Anglo American.
According to Liberum’s Ben Davis, Anglo American has the best growth outlook among majors as it had prioritised investment over returns. Capital expenditure has been lifted sharply and planned spending now back close to peak levels, Davis said.
Chambers said none of Anglo American’s other senior executives had expressed a wish to leave the company, including its technical director, Tony O’Neill.
Cutifani and O’Neill have been a double act having worked together at AngloGold Ashanti from 2008 to 2013. “Tony, Stephen (Pearce, Anglo American CFO) and I have worked to form a coherent team at Anglo and we are very sensitive to that,” said Cutifani.
Cutifani also didn’t plan to take up any chairmanship roles at other companies. “I have no plans as of today,” he said.