Monday, 15 August 2016

Platinum Sector Developments

Two developments have caught my eye today.

Firstly news that Miner Anglo American has come under pressure by its largest investor to sell its platinum mines to a state-backed vehicle. This has pushed the share price higher in early trading and it's no surprise given their open intentions to buy back platinum operations in the national interest. South Africa's pension fund the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) will likely not relent on this course given the delicate balance of platinum supply in the country. The PIC is reportedly looking to roll its other platinum interests into a new national mining company to rival the other majors in the country and this acquisition would fit the bill. Whether or not this deal ever comes to fruition it shows the appetite for platinum by national backed vehicles like the PIC. Given our profitable operations and low market valuation we may one day be the focus of a hostile takeover although more likely we will see institutional buying in the lead up to talks I would think. Despite being a small operation with limited future expansion prospects we are very profitable and would be a sensible addition to PIC's portfolio of assets given they are looking to sweep up platinum operations.

The second item for discussion is news that Zimbabwe are tightening regulations in the mining industry which will potentially impact platinum mine investment in the country. Zimbabwe produces around 8.5% of the world's platinum, the world's third largest producer and in terms of palladium is ranked fourth largest.

"A report by Reuters over the weekend says the draft bill, which has been more than a decade in the making, includes a provision that authorities will only issue mining rights to companies listed on the Zimbabwe stock exchange."

The majors operating in Zimbabwe are primarily platinum group metals companies such as Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum through its Zimplats subsidiary and Aquarius Platinum but none are currently listed on the Zimbabwe stock exchange. Foreign companies must also sell a majority stake (51%) to local investors under the country's indigenization laws. Recent developments suggest a deepening protectionist trend emerging in the country.

The Zimbabwe government earlier this year revoked the licences of all diamond mining companies operating inside the country. They consolidated diamond mining in the country's rich Marange fields under a state-owned entity. Foreign miners have also been ordered to return mineral leases which the state says is not being developed at 'a fast enough pace'. In January last year the country introduced a platinum export tax but suspended it once majors Amplats, Implats and Aquarius agreed to support local metal processing prior to export. Such government backed moves to control the industry heightens investor risk and will likely result in reduced investment, with neighbouring producers such as South African companies benefiting.