Implats’ Nico Muller bears RBH no ill will after it sold its stake in takeover target RBPlat

Nico Muller, CEO, Impala Platinum

IMPALA Platinum (Implats) CEO, Nico Muller said he bore no ill will towards Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH) after it sold its stake in Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) to a rival platinum group metal (PGM) producer.

“I respect the transaction that RBH did because it is the economic vehicle for the Royal Bafokeng Nation,” he said in an interview reported in the Financial Mail. “They have to look at maximising the value of all their businesses on behalf of the Nation.”

On November 9, Northam Platinum announced it completed a cash and share purchase of RBH’s 32.8% stake in RBPlat for R180.50 per share. The bid then totalled R17bn and compared to Implats’ R150 per share cash and shares offer for RBPlat.

In selling its shares in RBPlat, RBH helped Northam Platinum stymie Implats’ proposal to buy out 100% of RBPlat as per a cautionary annoucement in late October. Implats subsequently decided to press on with a mandatory offer for the balance of shares after acquiring a 35% stake from RBPlat shareholders.

“To the extent that they believe they have achieved a superior economic proposition, that is something I have to expect even though I have my own views on how one interprets economic proposition,” said Muller.

A market source told the FM that RBH may have acted unethically. “Was it right for RBH to deal with Northam while it was party to separate discussions with Implats? Was RBH dealing with inside information? RBH has sold its birthright for commercial gain. It was the kingmaker in RBPlat, but it gave that up,” the market source said.

Udo Lucht, chief investment officer at RBH did not respond to FM’s requests for comment at the time of the article in mid-February.

In its defence, RBH’s mandate is to diversify the Royal Bafokeng Nation’s wealty from its traditional mining base across the investment spectrum.

Implats is due to report its interim numbers on Tuesday at which the progress of its bid for RBPlat will fall under the microscope.

Focus will also fall on Muller’s take on PGM markets which appear to have recovered following a year-end wobble. Implats warned earlier this month of a cut to refined PGM production for its 2022 financial year.

This was owing to “accelerated wear” of a furnace at its Rustenburg operations related to the stresses of the hard lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and inconsistent electricity supply from Eskom, Implats said.

A full rebuild of the processing unit has been planned.