Bad news all round

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

A triple whammy of bad news sent Northam Platinum's share into freefall yesterday, plummeting 28percent to an intra-day low of R18,45 a share.

First it announced a mining fatality, then that its interim earnings are likely to be nearly half last year's R1,99 a share, and finally that suitor Impala Platinum has walked off for the second time just a week after renewing talks.

Impala chief executive David Brown did not rule out the marriage. He told Bloomberg: "If the market was to be more stable, less volatile, it is a possibility."

But speculators betting that Impala would offer a hefty premium to buy out minority shareholders of Northam, along with its holding company Mvelaphanda Resources, dumped both shares in frenzied panic selling.

Trade in Mvela shares, which usually averages a few hundred thousand a day, spiked to five million, while the price dived 25percent to an intra-day low of R19.

The breakdown in talks raises the question if Northam can fund the development of Booysendal without the help of a bigger company. Booysendal was originally a joint venture between Mvela and Anglo Platinum, but became wholly owned by Northam in a deal that saw Mvela become its parent while AngloPlat gained black economic empowerment credits.

Impala may be betting that the current credit crunch will make it harder for Northam to finance Booysendal than it realises, allowing the larger platinum group to swallow its smaller rival at a bargain price in due course.

Mvela spokesperson James Wellsted said: "Impala approached us with an unsolicited offer. We never felt we needed a big brother to develop Booysendal, and we are not going to sell Northam for less than we think it is worth."