‘If you are managing a portfolio like we are, there are clearly no sacred cows in it’
“UNEASY lies the head that wears a crown,” wrote William Shakespeare, and that sentiment must resonate with Wanblad, who has had a rough start to his tenure. It was tough enough taking over from highly successful predecessor Mark Cutifani, but Wanblad’s appointment has coincided with a downturn in commodity markets and the emergence of some significant issues within the Anglo empire. Using the measure that resonates most with the ordinary shareholder – the share price – Anglo last year dropped 47% from around R760 in January to as low as around R400.
A big chunk of that drop came in December when Anglo announced large cuts in its forecast copper production in 2024 and 2025 in addition to depressed conditions for its diamond and platinum operations. Wanblad said De Beers would make losses in the second half of the 2023 financial year after diamond sales collapsed although he reckoned there would be a “bounce back” in demand during 2024. Still to be quantified is the financial impact of the new marketing agreement between De Beers and the Botswana government.
Analysts also remain uncomfortable with Anglo’s Woodsmith mineral fertiliser project which will cost around $4.8bn and which Anglo has already impaired by $1.7bn. In a nutshell, “Anglo loves this project but the market hates it,” according to Bank of America analysts. They want Anglo to bring in a partner to share the capital cost. Wanblad says Anglo will do so but “at the right time and for value”. Recent speculation is that will happen sooner rather than later. Broadly speaking, Wanblad may find consolation in the fact Cutifani had a rough start at Anglo as well until the markets swung back in his favour.
LIFE OF DUNCAN
He’s a mechanical engineer who began his career at the former JCI in 1990 where his father – Graham – worked. He held a number of positions moving up in the management hierarchy and particularly in platinum which, in those days, Anglo controlled through JCI. Wanblad joined the Anglo Platinum (Amplats) board in 2004 and served as executive director of projects and engineering until 2007 when he was briefly appointed joint interim CEO at Amplats. He was appointed head of Anglo’s copper operations in 2008 and CEO of the whole bang shoot in 2022.