Top African fund manager is key to platinum takeover battle

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. said Africa’s biggest fund manager must make a decision over what to do with its Royal Bafokeng Platinum Ltd. stake, which has become central to ending an eight-month takeover battle that’s hindering the companies from making future plans.

South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., which owns 9.9% of RBPlat, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, has had enough time to weigh Impala’s’ 150 rand ($9.30) per share offer, Impala Chief Executive Officer Nico Muller said. A decision on its stake in the smaller miner would help bring certainty to both companies, he added.

While Impala’s bid to win control of RBPlat has been frustrated by an attempt by rival Northam Platinum Holdings Ltd. to also take over the company, the PIC’s indecision is stoking investor uncertainty while delaying the companies from taking strategic decisions, Muller said.

“All the information has been available. They have consulted with every conceivable party, they have done the rigorous examination that I believe will stand up to public scrutiny,” Muller said in an interview in Johannesburg this week. “It will be helpful if a position is concluded as soon as possible.”

At stake for Impala is control of assets owned by RBPlat that lie close its own mine complex near the South African city of Rustenburg. Rival Northam swooped in and gained a key stake after buying out RBPlat’s biggest shareholder in November. Since then, Impala has built a 37.8% stake in RBPlat but its bid to complete antitrust approvals and complete the takeover process was delayed after Northam, which owns just under 35%, intervened in an attempt to block the deal.

Muller reiterated that RBPlat’s assets are key to the future of Impala’s biggest mine complex, which employs almost 44,000 people. Some of the deep-level shafts at the sprawling Rustenburg operation are running out of commercially viable ore and could only be profitable if exploited alongside RBPlat’s neighboring assets, Muller said. He added that while Impala respects the money manager’s decision-making processes, he is “disappointed” that a decision hasn’t been announced eight months after his company’s offer.

“The PIC supports any transaction that can demonstrate benefits for its clients,” the fund manager, which oversees 2.34 trillion rand of mainly government worker pensions, said in a response to queries, without giving more detail. It also owns large stakes in both Impala and Northam.

While Northam is yet to make a general offer, the CEO Paul Dunne, has said he wants to gain control of RBPlat. Northam’s operations are not close to those of RBPlat.

Northam didn’t answer calls or respond to an email seeking comment.

The South African Competition Tribunal may hold a hearing on the intervention by Northam in August, Impala’s Muller said.

Northam shares fell 1.9% by 10:39 a.m in Johannesburg, taking this year’s decline to 20%. RBPlat dropped 0.9%, while Impala shares were little changed.

“In order to promote market certainty and timely positions for companies to make the right strategic decisions, it will be important that a decision is exercised by the PIC,” Muller said.

(By Felix Njini, with assistance from Gina Turner)

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