Thousands of jobs to be saved as Sibanye's takeover of Lonmin is almost finalised

A Lonmin mine shaft in Brits, North West. The mining company, which has been battling high operating costs, is in the process of being acquired by Sibanye Stillwater.
A Lonmin mine shaft in Brits, North West. The mining company, which has been battling high operating costs, is in the process of being acquired by Sibanye Stillwater.
Image: THULANI MBELE

Sibanye-Stillwater and Lonmin cleared the final hurdle to forming the world’s second-largest platinum producer as their shareholders approved the South African firm’s R4.1-billion (226 million pound) takeover of its London-listed rival.

Sibanye first proposed buying Lonmin in 2017, a deal touted as the only way to save the cash-strapped company’s 29,000 strong workforce as job cuts are politically sensitive as unemployment runs above 27%.

Sibanye, which also has gold mines in South Africa, has been growing its platinum presence by buying Anglo American Platinum’s Rustenburg operations in 2015, Aquarius Platinum and then US palladium producer Stillwater.

Lonmin shares rose 7.7%, while Sibanye’s were up 8.4% on Tuesday after the majority of shareholders in both firms backed the revised all-share offer, which valued Lonmin at R111-million (60 million pounds) less than originally proposed.

The deal is seen as a life-line for the cash-strapped Lonmin, which was hit hard by the drop in platinum prices and had to cut spending in order to retain a positive balance sheet, a condition of Sibanye’s proposed offer.

“We are very appreciative that shareholders realise the structural challenges that face Lonmin can actually be resolved with the merger to create a more diversified and stronger platform for Lonmin,” Lonmin CEO Ben Magara said.

Palladium and rhodium prices have recently rallied, giving struggling mining companies a reprieve, but platinum prices are still in the doldrums.

“We believe the acquisition of Lonmin by Sibanye represents the most robust solution to the challenges facing Lonmin,” Renaissance Capital said in a note. The deal is expected to close on June 7.

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