Teck CEO says he’s survived collapsing shares before

Donald Lindsay, president and CEO. (Credit: Teck Resources via Twitter)

Under fire from investors who have called for his ouster, the chief executive of Teck Resources Ltd. said he has weathered a collapse in the share price before — with the backing of the company patriarch.

On Monday, Impala Asset Management LLC revealed it sent a letter to Teck’s board in February, criticizing CEO Don Lindsay for decisions it says have hurt the share price and saying he is overpaid. Earlier this month, an Australian hedge fund, Tribeca Investment Partners, also called for Lindsay’s resignation and said the company should divest its energy and coal businesses.

Both investors are critical of Teck’s dual-class share structure, which allows the Keevil family — which has been involved with the firm for more than six decades — to control the company.

Teck is in the midst of an investment cycle to ramp up its copper business and improve its steelmaking coal operations

So far, Lindsay has not commented directly on the activist investors, although the company has issued statements saying he has widespread shareholder support. Teck says the stock’s decline — more than 55% in the past year — is mostly due to falling commodity prices.

Speaking at a Bank of America conference on Tuesday, Lindsay defended his record.

“We know that investors tend to be cautious during these phases,” Lindsay said in prepared remarks seen by Bloomberg. He was referring to the fact that Teck is in the midst of an investment cycle to ramp up its copper business and improve its steelmaking coal operations.

“We’ve seen something very similar before during financing and construction of another high-altitude copper mine –- Antamina –- which also coincided with a significant downturn in the market.”

‘Penalty box’

In 2015, Teck was stripped of its investment grade rating as the collapse of the commodities supercycle coincided with increased spending on Antamina, a silver mine in Peru. The company took a C$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) writedown and sold a stream on silver output to manage.

Throughout that period, Teck’s share price was in the “penalty box, Lindsay reminded analysts. “But our then-CEO and now chairman emeritus Dr. Keevil had the vision and tenacity to see it through.”

Bob Bishop, the CEO of Impala, said he began buying Teck shares in December 2015 with most of the fund’s position purchased in January 2016, the only saving grace for the investment.

“If you are smart enough to buy Teck once every seven years when people think Teck may go broke then you can make a great return because the commodity markets usually bail them out,” he said by email Tuesday. “I was that buyer in 2016.”

Teck began that year at C$5.34 a share in Toronto and rose to nearly C$39 by early 2018. The stock was at C$12.29 as of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

(By Danielle Bochove)

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