Crippling labor strikes, geriatric mines and precious metals prices scraping along at their lowest levels in half a decade don’t faze Neal Froneman, head of the world’s best-performing gold producer over the past two years.
Froneman, known in the industry as Mr. Fixit, defied investors’ skepticism to build up Sibanye Gold Ltd. from a spinoff of three old, strike-prone South African mines owned by Gold Fields Ltd. Now he wants to do it again in platinum and maybe even coal.
“We think that we’re very well positioned to move into other difficult social environments within South Africa and make a meaningful difference,” Froneman, Sibanye’s chief executive officer, said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
“We have some experience and we understand these risks very well. “While other investors flee the nation, Froneman, 55, reckons he can overcome its fractious labor relations, high costs and low productivity to buy assets cheaply, turn them around and make money.
With that aim, Sibanye announced Wednesday it’s paying at least $330 million for three Anglo American Platinum Ltd. mines that were paralyzed by a record five-month strike last year.
“The market, on the unbundling of those Gold Fields assets, had a fairly negative view,” Froneman said. The latest deal “is not too dissimilar.”
The CEO will get an easier ride this time as his standing has rocketed in the past two years, in tandem with the 60 percent jump in Sibanye’s share price. That’s the best performance by far among a group of 15 large gold producers tracked by Bloomberg Intelligence. The gauge, including Barrick Gold Corp. and Gold Fields, is down 50 percent in the period as gold slumped 20 percent.
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