Lonmin tanks as UK competition watchdog looks into Sibanye takeover

Lonmin’s mines are located on the western limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC), which hosts almost 80% of the world’s PGM resources. (Image courtesy of Lonmin.)

Shares in struggling South African platinum producer Lonmin (LON:LMI) collapsed Tuesday after Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was examining whether the company’s takeover by Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE:SGL) (NYSE:SBGL) would reduce competition.

By mid-morning, Lonmin shares had lost 5.6% of their value in London, while Sibanye’s were down 4.9% in Johannesburg, even though the companies announced they had received the approval of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

The 285-million pound deal (about $386 million), however, still faces several hurdles including Lonmin’s shrinking cash balance, a stronger rand, approval from the competition authority in South Africa and the just launched CMA inquiry.

The transaction would create the world’s No.2 platinum producer as Lonmin is the world’s third-largest while Sibanye-Stillwater is the fourth.

The transaction, first announced in December, would create the world’s No.2 platinum producer. Lonmin already is the world’s third-largest while Sibanye-Stillwater is the fourth.

The all-share offer for Lonmin has been considered a rescue deal for the company, severely hit by weak platinum prices, costs related to the strengthening rand, a large labour force and expensive deep-level mines.

The miner has warned it may cut up to 12,600 jobs over the next three years, with 3,700 job losses earmarked for this year, even if the takeover by Sibanye goes ahead.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s top executives had previously suggested Lonmin needed to be cash positive to follow through on the takeover. While they had also said it was not a make-or-break condition for the deal, the company’s chief financial officer revealed Tuesday Sibanye planned to shut loss-making production at Lonmin after the merger.

“We will not cross-subsidise loss-making production across the portfolio,” Justin Froneman said according to Reuters.

“If we’ve got ounces that aren’t covering their costs they will be taken out… we have to do that. We can’t let our shareholders absorb those kinds of expenses.”

Sibanye is under pressure to reduce debt after a string of acquisitions that have transformed the company from a gold producer to a precious metals company with assets outside South Africa.

If the merger with Lonmin were delayed or blocked it could place all of the cash-strapped miner’s 33,000 jobs at risk, its chief executive, Ben Magara, said Monday in a results presentation.

It would also trigger Lonmin’s debt covenants and require the platinum miner to pay $150 million in 20 days.