Sibanye Gold aims to show its faith in platinum with further acquisitions while looking to benefit from a broader commodities revival by strengthening its portfolio of gold, base metals and coal assets.
The South African company bought Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Rustenburg mines in September for 4.5 billion rand ($287 million) and forked out $294 million for Aquarius Platinum a month later, expanding in a sector damaged in 2014 by a record five-month stoppage that dented Amplats’ profits.
Platinum prices dipped and wages rose after the strike, forcing companies to shed jobs, close shafts and sell mines to survive, but Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman is confident that the sector has turned a corner.
“Absolutely. You are already seeing the platinum price move (up). In fact, I am concerned that we may even be too late (to take full advantage),” he told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Platinum prices fell sharply last year but have climbed by about 19% since the start of 2016, tracking gains made by gold and breathing life into the battered share prices of the likes of Amplats and Lonmin .
Apart from seeking platinum assets in South Africa and gold companies abroad, Froneman said Sibanye would invest in coal.
But mindful of the decline of coal and base metals in the face of oversupply and muted demand, particularly from China, Froneman emphasised that Sibanye will proceed with caution.
“We are not going to make a move just for the sake of making a move,” he said. “The investment thesis is sustainability of dividends and enhancing our cash flows.”
Froneman said that labour issues also remain a concern as the platinum sector gears up for wage talks ahead of the expiry of a two-year wage deal at the end of June.
Sibanye averted a wage strike threatened by the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at its gold operations by agreeing a pay deal in April.
Froneman said that rivalry between the two main mining unions has complicated labour relations, referring to an often violent turf war as the AMCU, the second-biggest union in the gold sector, seeks to eclipse the National Union of Mineworkers as it has done in platinum.