Anglo investors tell company to move faster to survive BHP bid

Anglo American’s AGM in London on 30 April 2024. (Image by Anglo American, Flickr.)

Anglo American Plc’s shareholders are pushing the company to speed up the release of its turnaround plan as the 107-year-old miner seeks to present an alternative to BHP Group Ltd.’s takeover bid.

Anglo has been reviewing its business since mid-2023, looking at every mine in its portfolio to help reshape a company that’s fallen behind competitors in recent years. Yet that process was broadsided by a takeover approach last month from the world’s biggest miner.

Now, Anglo shareholders have been urging the company to expedite that analysis and explain to investors how it would create more value than by just selling to the rival, according to conversations with five of Anglo’s biggest holders, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Anglo may unveil the strategy as soon as the coming week, when the world’s top mining bosses attend Bank of America Corp.’s annual conference in Miami, according to people familiar with the matter.

Still, the situation remains fluid and Anglo is weighing the best time to show its hand, with BHP expected to return with a fresh bid and activist investor Elliott Investment Management, which has emerged as one of Anglo’s biggest shareholders, potentially planning to make its views public too.

An Anglo spokesman declined to comment.

Anglo chief executive officer Duncan Wanblad told investors in February that while there was urgency about the company’s review, there was a danger of making decisions at a wrong point in the cycle.

The mining industry has been captivated by BHP’s move, watching to see what comes next. BHP likely will return with a fresh offer, but sitting on the sidelines is Elliott.

BHP presented its own vision for Anglo: separate two giant South African businesses and buy the rest, including the company’s copper mines, its crown jewels.

Anglo quickly dismissed BHP’s proposal, saying the value was too low and the spinoff plan was unworkable. Still, investors want to know what Anglo plans to do with the diamond business De Beers, the $9 billion Woodsmith fertilizer project underway in northern England, and those South African units.

Investors have pushed the company to slow spending on Woodsmith, bring in a partner, or even halt development altogether, some of the people said. The company is currently spending about $1 billion a year on the project.

In addition, some see De Beers as a strange fit for Anglo — diamonds are a discretionary product and require significant marketing in a way other commodities don’t — and its growth options are limited.

Still, De Beers is seen as a trophy asset, so while diamonds are at a low point, Anglo won’t accept a lowball offer.

(By Thomas Biesheuvel and William Clowes)


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