‘One of the biggest challenges if you’ve had years of success is arrogance’
VISION Blue Resources (VBR) is the latest of a number of ventures Mick Davis launched since falling out with former Glencore boss Ivan Glasenberg during the merger of that company with Xstrata. Davis first tried his hand with a private equity fund called X2 Resources that looked to capitalise on China’s commodities boom, looking for the chance to buy projects cheaply in a debt-burdened mining sector. He raised $500m in 2016 for the fund but it closed in 2017 without making a single investment, with Davis citing a lack of decent opportunities. Then he went after iron ore through Niron Metal, which he cofounded in 2019 looking to develop the Zogota iron prospect in Guinea.
That did not work either and Davis cut his ties with Niron in 2021. So far he seems to be doing a lot better with VBR, where he has at least found a number of ventures to invest money in. The vision of VBR is to “create a portfolio of strategic and high-returning investments in clean energy-related metal and mineral resources companies essential to the clean energy transition”. The first deal – after raising $60m – happened in February 2021 with the investment of $29.5m in Next Source Materials, which is developing the Molo flake graphite project in Madagascar. Graphite is a key mineral for the production of batteries.
That was followed in March with the creation of the ESM Acquisition Corporation in partnership with the Energy and Minerals Group, which raised $300m. The strategy is to focus on businesses positioned to benefit from the global transition to a low-carbon economy. Three other investments have taken place since then, with VBR putting funds into Ferro-Alloy Resources (vanadium), Sinova Global (silicon), and Cornish Metals (tin).
LIFE OF MICK
Sir Mick – he was knighted in 2015 for services to Holocaust commemoration and education – is a CA by profession and holds a BComm Honours from Rhodes University. He remains one of South Africa’s best-known businessmen after teaming up with Brian Gilbertson after leaving Eskom, where he was the CFO. The two created Billiton with Davis as CFO and he was heavily involved in the merger of BHP and Billiton before becoming CEO of Xtrata. Davis has raised more than $40bn from global capital markets during his career and successfully completed more than $120bn of corporate transactions. He is chairman of Next Resources.