South African dealmaker takes a punt on platinum – by Henry Sanderson and Neil Hume (Financial Times – January 1, 2018)

He is known in banking circles as Neal “the deal” Froneman, and for good reason.

Since 2015, the South Africa-born mining engineer has launched four takeover offers, turning Sibanye-Stillwater, the company he runs, into a major force in the precious metals market.

But Mr Froneman’s appetite is far from sated. In December, he made his boldest move yet, launching a £285m all-share offer for Lonmin, the London-listed miner on the brink of collapse.

If the deal is approved by regulators and shareholders, Sibanye will become the second-largest producer of platinum in the world, a remarkable result for a company that was formed only five years ago out of two unwanted gold mines spun off from South African producer Gold Fields.

Mr Froneman is betting he can restructure Lonmin and use its smelters and refineries to process the ore Sibanye digs out of the ground.

But the deal comes with considerable challenges, including cutting thousands of jobs at a company that has struggled with labour disputes at its mines in South Africa.

The future of platinum as an industrial metal is also uncertain given its use in catalytic converters, which are not needed in electric cars.

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