Is Wesizwe dressing for success?

[] — JUDGING by its 2007 annual report investors could be forgiven for believing that Wesizwe Platinum is a company with money to burn. It’s not.

It’s an exploration outfit that has yet to produce a single ounce of platinum and has to find R5.6bn to pay for the development of its proposed Frischgewaagd-Ledig mine near the gambling resort of Sun City.

Yet its annual report is fancier and glossier and printed on better quality paper than that produced by Impala Platinum – the world’s second largest platinum producer – that mined just more than two million oz of platinum in its 2007 financial year.

Wesizwe’s report is also nearly the same size as the Implats publication. It runs to 180 pages against the 240 pages that Implats needed to report on developments at its five mining operations, one refining complex and one major new development project spread throughout South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Wesizwe’s effort, by comparison, is essentially about the bankable feasibility study for its proposed mine. Maybe Wesizwe’s strategic intent is to capitalise on the solid “thud’ that resonates around the office when this tome is dropped on a desk? I guess “heavyweight’ might be the subliminal message intended.

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That could help the bankers tasked with raising the R5,6bn – Deutsche Bank, Absa Capital and the Development Bank of SA – as they do their rounds of prospective funders.

Or perhaps the purpose is to impress the political powers that be? This is, after all, a company that is 51% black empowerment controlled and, says CEO Michael Solomon, intends remaining “as black as possible’.

Whatever. The bottom line is that Wesizwe owns a platinum project in a strategically interesting region near the Pilanesberg with all kinds of potential for corporate action. But it also has to find a lot of money at a time when the markets aren’t looking favourably on junior miners and explorers and have marked down their share prices accordingly.

I reckon Wesizwe could have got its point across at far less cost to shareholders – as well as the environment – by culling about one-third of the trees that had to die to produce its report. Then again, I guess Sappi and/or Mondi also have to make a living, not to mention Blue Wolf Communications, which designed this particular corporate work of art.