February 12, 2020 / 6:54 AM / 11 days ago

AngloGold shifts focus as it sells South African assets to Harmony

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - AngloGold Ashanti (ANGJ.J) said on Wednesday it would sell its remaining South African assets for about $300 million to Harmony Gold (HARJ.J), turning the buyer into the country’s largest gold producer.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Mponeng mine is seen near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

AngloGold said the deal, part of its plan to shrink its portfolio and focus on assets with higher returns so it can shift its primary listing to London or Toronto, included selling Mponeng mine, the world’s deepest gold mine.

AngloGold will receive cash and deferred payment totaling about $300 million subject to subsequent performance, with additional proceeds due if Harmony developed the West Wits mines below the existing mining infrastructure.

Alongside Mponeng mine, the sale includes a surface rock dump processing business and a mine waste retreatment operation.

AngloGold retains its interest in Rand Refinery and its obligations under the Silicosis Class Action Settlement, a legal battle by miners seeking compensation for illnesses they blame on negligence in health and safety.

Harmony, which bought South Africa’s Moab Khotsong mine in 2018, said it planned to focus on the above infrastructure.

“At this point in time, we have made no decision to go down below infrastructure,” Harmony Chief Executive Peter Steenkamp said, adding further development was unlikely to involve a vertical shaft even though “there is a massive resource below infrastructure.”

Harmony, which also has operations in Papua New Guinea, said acquiring AngloGold’s assets provided a strategic, financial, operational and geographical fit.

“The acquisition has the potential to improve our overall recovered grade and increasing our cash flow margins,” Steenkamp said, adding that it would increase annual gold production by around 350,000 ounces a year.

NO JOB CUTS PLANNED

AngloGold said Harmony was identified as the most suitable party to buy these assets during the nine-month sales process, citing its financial capacity and ability to operate ultra-deep, hard-rock mining assets in South Africa.

Rival Sibanye-Stillwater SGJ.J had also made an offer.

Unions at the operations, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity, welcomed the choice of Harmony.

“At the same time we are disappointed that AngloGold Ashanti decided to disinvest from South Africa. They are now a global company because of the profits they made in South Africa,” NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said.

Harmony said it had no plans for job cuts at the operations which employ around 6000 people.

The mining industry has battled rising costs, safety concerns and operational obstacles in mines that sometimes operate more that 3 km (1.9 miles) below the surface.

AngloGold, which sold its stake in the Sadiola project in Mali for $105 million, said in May it would review divestment options for its South African assets, paving the way for it to move its primary listing.

AngloGold also flagged headline earnings per share, the main profit measure in South Africa, for the year to December of 86 cents to 96 cents, up from 53 cents in 2018.

The transaction, subject to approvals by the mining ministry and competition watchdog, could be completed by June 30.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Aditya Soni and Edmund Blair

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