BHP Billiton, and now Newco, are heirs to South Africa’s Gencor, one of the corporations that arose in the apartheid era based on mining, but owning various industrial concerns.
The Billiton in BHP Billiton was born from the first major “emigration” of a mining company as apartheid ended.
In 1994, Gencor bought Billiton, which was then the mining subsidiary of international oil company Royal Dutch Shell, for $2 billion.
In 1997, Gencor proceeded to sell all its best assets, excluding its gold and platinum mines, to Billiton for shares, then listed Billiton in London.
This preceded the betterknown move of Anglo American to London in 1998.
The assets that ended up in Billiton included Alusaf, the aluminium company originally set up by the International Data Corporation in the 1960s, which built the Bayside, Hillside and Mozal smelters.
It also included Ingwe Coal, which is today known as Billiton Energy Coal SA.
Added to that were Richards Bay Minerals (which mines titanium dioxide and has since been sold) as well as the majority stake in Samancor.
The Gencor gold mines ended up in Gold Fields and its platinum subsidiary, Impala Platinum, got unbundled in 2002.