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THE knives are out for Anglo American's chief executive Cynthia Carroll.
She has apparently lost the confidence of leading shareholders, who want her to consider merging the London-listed mining giant with its rival Xstrata.
Some investors have drastically reduced their shareholdings in Anglo over the past year because of Carroll's leadership.
They accuse her of overpaying for acquisitions and failing to deliver in the day-to-day management of the company.
"There are three reasons we sold: Cynthia, Cynthia and Cynthia," said one shareholder.
"It's nothing personal. We just don't think she has done a good job."
The criticism comes as Anglo grapples with problems at De Beers, in which it has a 45percent holding.
The diamond mining giant is in negotiations with bankers over R12billion of debt scheduled to be repaid in March next year, and Anglo shareholders are concerned that it might need a cash injection.
In February De Beers got an interest-free loan of about R4billion from its three shareholders - Anglo, the Oppenheimer family and the Botswana government.
Anglo is also battling to find a new chairman who will be acceptable to a South African government, which has previously accused locally-based multinationals of racism for blocking the key appointment of black candidates.
Such problems have prompted speculation that Anglo might be forced to consider a merger with Xstrata if the Anglo-Swiss miner were to make an approach.
Mick Davis, SA chief executive of Xstrata, is also under pressure from shareholders to pursue a merger.
Rebecca O'Dwyer of Investec said: "Anglo would make a lot of shareholders happy if they did a deal with Xstrata. It is such a big job running Anglo that some shareholders think the only person who could do it would be Mick Davis."
Anglo had lined up Sir John Parker, chairman of National Grid, to head its board, but his appointment was blocked by the SA government, which is the largest shareholder through public pension funds.
Fred Phaswana, chairman of Anglo Platinum, was initially proposed as an alternative but this was rejected.
People close to the Anglo board rejected the allegation of racism and insisted that Phaswana was not well known to international shareholders.
A possible compromise might be Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers. - The Times, London