AngloGold picks Harmony to buy SA assets

AngloGold Ashanti picked Harmony Gold as the buyer for its last remaining South African operations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The two companies are finalising the exact terms of the deal for the Mponeng mine and surface facilities, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

AngloGold is selling the assets as Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Dushnisky focuses on more profitable mines in Ghana, Australia and the Americas. Harmony - backed by billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Minerals - is hunting for deals to replenish declining reserves in South Africa. Harmony paid $300m for AngloGold’s Moab Khotsong mine in 2017.

AngloGold spokesperson Chris Nthite declined to comment.

Harmony is looking at potential acquisitions in South Africa and has a plan to finance the deals, Chief Executive Officer Peter Steenkamp said on a conference call Tuesday to discuss the company’s half-year results. The company is looking at assets with at least 1 million ounces of reserves and a 10-year life span, he said.

AngloGold’s mines could be used as “criteria if we are to evaluate any assets” in South Africa, Steenkamp said.

“We understand and we do have the ability and expertise to run underground mines,” he said. “We will not necessarily shy away from underground mines.”

AngloGold’s Mponeng mine, the world’s deepest, produced 265 000 ounces of gold in 2018, while output from its surface operations, which extract the precious metal from ore dumps, totaled 171 000 ounces. Those South African assets accounted for about 13% of AngloGold’s production that year.

AngloGold said last week it plans to provide an update on the asset sale on February 21. In November, AngloGold narrowed the list of bidders for its South African assets to Harmony and Sibanye Gold, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

The strategic rationale to find a buyer “trumps a straight valuation call” for the operations, said James Bell, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in London. AngloGold needs to sell the assets before it can move its primary listing from Johannesburg to London, “something that we think could drive a material re-rating in time.”

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