South Africa's gold CEOs ready for mergers as prices decline


By Kevin Crowley
Bloomberg News
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africa's gold miners are ready for mergers and acquisitions as the falling price of bullion forces companies to cut costs and repay debt.

"Maybe there's some smart consolidation that can take place on a regional basis," Sibanye Gold Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Neal Froneman said last week. "I think there will be. I think it's the right time. I think it's necessary. I don't think my counterparts in the industry are on completely different pages either." The company is the country's biggest producer of the metal.

Gold's 27 percent drop since the start of last year has prompted executives to consider deals as a way of cutting costs in South Africa's aging mines and insulating investors from risks such as labor strikes in the country that's the world's sixth-biggest producer of the metal. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. failed in its attempt last month to split its local mines from its international operations only because investors balked at the accompanying $2.1 billion share sale.

"We're probably a good target right now," Graham Briggs, CEO of Harmony Gold Mining Co., South Africa's third-largest bullion producer, said in an interview last week. "A low share price, we're fairly good with our cost control. If we had bigger management fees to take out, it would be even more of an advantage. We have low debt."

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