Implats’ bid for RBPlat may drag on after Court allows Northam latitude to quiz deal

IMPALA Platinum said today it was unlikely to meet the September 26 long-stop date for conclusion of its takeover offer for Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat).

This was after the Competition Appeal Court granted Northam Platinum Holdings latitude to argue at a Competition Tribunal hearing that the combination of Implats and RBPlat stymied the ambitions of junior platinum group metal (PGM) miners, and that it represented anti-competitive behaviour in the confines of the southern African market.

The Competition Appeal Court ruling is a blow to Implats which was seeking to bring a swift end to the takeover. Speaking at theĀ September 1 presentation of the group’s year-end results, Implats CEO, Nico Muller said his firm had “very little appetite for continued extensions”.

According to Johan Theron, Implats spokesman, Northam has 10 days from Monday to provide further argument of its case.

In this regard, the Competition Appeal Court ruling enables Northam to introduce witnesses to the tribunal as well as draw on marketing agreements between Implats and suppliers of concentrate provided the details of the commercial arrangements remain confidential.

Implats will then have 10 days to make its response to Northam’s objections. “It’s pretty much as we expected,” said Theron. “The appeal court is doing everything necessary to give a fair hearing.”

The court will have updated information before it within about three weeks provided there were no further delays “that might crop up to do with things like the availability of witnesses,” said Theron. “We believe all along that Northam’s intention is to delay proceedings,” he said.

Winning the support of the Competition Tribunal would give Implats the green light to take a controlling stake in RBPlat of about 42%. Its current holding is just over 39% but a 9% portion of RBPlat is still held by the government-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC). Once Implats gives notice of its intention to close its offer the PIC will have about two weeks to decide whether to accept it.

Northam CEO Paul Dunne has expressed an interest in controlling RBPlat saying earlier this year that his firm’s strategy was yet to be unveiled. Northam bought a 34.5% stake in RBPlat from Royal Bafokeng Holdings for cash and shares totallingĀ R180.50 per RBPlat share. This included options to increase Northam’s holding to about 38%.

In terms of its takeover offer, launched in January and since extended twice already, Implats has offered a combination of R90 in cash and 0.3 Implats per RBPlat share. Its last stated stake in RBPlat as of today was 39.13%.

Said Implats in a stock exchange news announcement today: “the current date set for fulfilment or waiver of the Conditions Precedent (and thus the Longstop Date) being Monday, 26 September, is no longer achieveable”.