AngloGold Ashanti launches asset review, CFO Christine Ramon to take early retirement
AngloGold Ashanti is launching a full review of its assets and CFO Christine Ramon will be taking early retirement in June for reasons linked to a family tragedy. Those are the main takeaways from its 2021 results, which showed an almost 40% decline in headline earnings.
AngloGold no longer has operational assets in South Africa, but it has a global reach and each and every one of its assets is to be scrutinised.
In a presentation accompanying its results that were unveiled on Tuesday, the company said a “full asset potential review process” was being launched; each assessment will take three months. The focus will be on “key performance gaps”. The entire process will take up to two years.
The exercise will include “the collection of detailed cost and productivity data, and development of detailed economic models”, the comparison of costs and performances to benchmarks and the identification of key opportunity areas. And that is just for starters.
The initiative has the fingerprints of CEO Alberto Calderon all over it. The straight-talking Colombian is an economist and numbers guy. The board clearly hopes that he and his team will crunch the data and use this to chart a more profitable course for the JSE-listed gold producer.
Assets to be reviewed include the company’s problematic Obuasi mine in Ghana, which at one point was overrun by an army of illegal mine workers. Raising the mine from the dead and rebooting it has been, in many ways, a dramatic success story – the first gold bars in more than five years were poured at Obuasi on 18 December 2020 – but the operation was voluntarily closed there for five months last year following a pillar incident that killed an employee. However, the company said redevelopment plans remain in place.
AngloGold also has a “new operating model” – corporate-speak for restructuring – which saw the cutting of more than 200 mid-level to senior management roles across the company, reducing annual costs by about $40-million.
The company’s headline earnings dropped by almost 40% to $612-million.
“Headline earnings were lower year on year, mainly due to lower gold production, higher operating and exploration costs, as well as other expenses related to care and maintenance at Obuasi ($45m), restructuring and related costs ($18m),” the company said.
The company cut its dividend to $60-million or 14 US cents per share from 48 US cents per share last year.
CFO Christine Ramos – who has also been an acting CEO and a source of stability as the top job changed hands more than once in recent years – will be taking early retirement in June for poignant family reasons after her husband died from Covid-19 last year.
“This has been a difficult decision for me but given that I tragically lost my husband to Covid-19 last year, I now need to devote more time in the near term to my two children,” she said.
Meanwhile, observers of the South African mining scene expect it to be just a matter of time before the company pulls its primary listing out of Johannesburg, given the fact that it no longer produces even an ounce of gold here. But the asset review is the primary focus at the moment. BM/DM
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