South32's CEO says open to buying joint Anglo manganese assets

Graham Kerr says South32 is open to increasing its exposure in Southern Africa.

Graham Kerr says South32 is open to increasing its exposure in Southern Africa.

23rd May 2024

By: Reuters


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PERTH  - Australian diversified miner South32 is open to buying Anglo American's share of two manganese operations the companies jointly own, should they come for sale at the right price, CEO Graham Kerr said on Thursday.

Anglo is the subject of a takeover offer by the world's biggest listed miner BHP Group, which had previously owned those assets but spun them out with its 2015 demerger of South32.

Asked in an interview if South32 would be interested in Anglo's share of its manganese business, Kerr told Reuters: "At the right price, absolutely. We know them better than anyone else." He declined to elaborate on what that price might be.

South32 is the world's largest producer of the steel hardening additive which it mines at its GEMCO operations in Australia's Northern Territory and in South Africa's Kalahari Basin.

Kerr, who had just returned from a trip to the United States, where South32 is developing its Taylor zinc-lead-silver project, has around $5-billion to spend as it seeks to bulk up its portfolio with two more assets.

"In a perfect world, we would like to have another operation in copper and zinc, and another shovel ready project," he told Reuters in an interview, adding the miner was open to increasing its exposure in Southern Africa.

Investors are coming around to the fact that miners need to buy over build to grow and the bump in base metals prices over the past few months is helping to reframe their view, said Kerr.

Miners must become more aggressive to secure new projects or risk missing out, given the growing appetite for energy transition metals including copper, investors and mining CEOs said on Wednesday.

"When you see the short term bump in prices, it allows them [investors] to envision a long term bump," he said.

South32 has been one of the most active miners in buying and selling assets, nearly doubling its exposure to base metals over bulks from less than half of its portfolio, over the past nine years.

It in February agreed to sell its Illawarra metallurgical coal business to a consortium led by an Indonesian-owned company for $1.65-billion, exiting coal to focus on expanding in copper and zinc.

That is on track to finalise in the first half of next financial year, Kerr said, as its exit from fossil fuels has sparked interest from new shareholders.

"We certainly have seen more interest from European funds and even Australian super funds," Kerr added.

Edited by Reuters




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