'Is it cos I is white?' South Africa not keen on Anglo's new chairman

Sir John Parker is to be Anglo's new chairman. But the South African government would have preferred a black local appointee.

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Last Updated: 26 Oct 2012

Bagging Sir John – currently chairman of National Grid, and also joint chairman of South African paper business Mondi – is widely seen as something of a coup for Anglo. But in south Africa – where Anglo is the biggest firm on the block – the government is not so keen.

Susan Shabangu, the country’s mineral resources minister, said the government would ‘prefer to have a black South African as the chairperson of Anglo. We believe this would be a positive signal, that going forward, Anglo is committed to the transformation of our economy and the development of our country’.

But just about everywhere else in the world, Sir John’s appointment is likely to be seen as a good thing. He’s a big name and well regarded in financial circles, important for Anglo which has been struggling to keep a lid on shareholder dissatisfaction with the performance of both the business and its CEO, Cynthia Carroll, recently.

Investors are said to be particularly peeved at losses in the platinum division, which does seem fair enough. If you can’t make money digging one of the most valuable commodities in the world out of the ground, surely something has gone wrong somewhere?

Parker will replace retiring chairman Mark Moody-Stuart on 1 August, and with his cast iron (solid platinum?) reputation in the City he should be able to buy Anglo some valuable time to sort itself out. It’s understood that he will remain chairman of National Grid when he takes on this new job.

One of Parker’s first actions was to put his considerable metaphorical weight behind the beleaguered Carroll, saying  ‘I look forward to working with the board and the excellent management team led by Cynthia Carroll’.

The next big issue on his to do list will be to fight off the attentions of rival Xstrata, which recently proposed a zero-premium ‘merger of equals’, rejected by Anglo as being inadequate. (We can’t say we’re surprised - somehow one of the parties always ends up being more equal than the other in that kind of deal).

Of course, every business is ultimately for sale, and if Xstrata can raise £10bn or so to sweeten the deal then it may well be back on. But with Parker on board, at least Anglo should be in a better position to bargain up the price.

 

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