Ta Ta, Tra­har

Share­hold­ers re­flect on An­glo chief’s seven-year stint

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - DAVID MCKAY

AN­GLO AMER­I­CAN’S 373 US cents full-year share earn­ings an­nounce­ment, and $3bn share buy-back pro­gramme, pretty much rep­re­sents CEO Tony Tra­har’s last ma­jor pub­lic ap­pear­ance for the com­pany. What now lies ahead is some splen­did re­tire­ment, al­though it re­mains to be seen how long Tra­har will sit in the shade suck­ing a pina co­lada through two straws.

Cyn­thia Car­roll, who’s Tra­har’s diminu­tive suc­ces­sor (An­glo will have to buy a step so we can see her prop­erly, over the podium, next time), looked shat­tered, hav­ing cov­ered ev­ery acre of grass An­glo owns, visit­ing mines from Chile to the un­der­ground reaches of An­glo Plat­inum’s Aman­del­bult mine.

Mak­ing a brief in­tro­duc­tion at An­glo’s re­sults pre­sen­ta­tion, Car­roll had, she croaked, nearly lost her voice, which is a good sign as it prob­a­bly means there was a lot of speak­ing dur­ing her world tour of An­glo’s as­sets; a lot of ques­tions, maybe un­com­fort­able ones.

So what do SA share­hold­ers make of Tra­har’s seven-year stint in the role as CEO? There’s re­mark­able agree­ment that he pre­sides over a bet­ter com­pany to­day, than the one he in­her­ited from Ju­lian Ogilvie Thompson in 2000. It’s more stream­lined and has an es­tab­lished pres­ence in Lon­don. At a priceearn­ings ra­tio of 20, the com­pany is highly rated against its peers.

Says Wayne McCur­rie of Ad­van­tage As­set Man­age­ment: “Share­hold­ers have done ex­tremely well out of An­glo. It’s a way bet­ter com­pany.” Get­ting rid of Na­makwa Sands and Mondi is also a good move, says McCur­rie.

But, there’s a sense that Tra­har’s con­ser­vatism was al­lowed to dom­i­nate. He called, for in­stance, the com­mod­ity mar­kets wrong in 2003 when BHP Bil­li­ton was do­ing flik­flaks over the Chi­nese prospects, and In­dia. He pulled out of Zam­bia’s cop­per­belt when he shouldn’t have.

Pa­trice Ras­sou, an an­a­lyst for San­lam In­vest­ment Man­agers, says new man­age­ment would prob­a­bly ben­e­fit from the re­struc­tur- ing and the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions Tra­har took. For Car­roll, then, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that An­glo is run as a tighter ship. Tra­har, too, im­proved on cost con­tain­ment, but his head was also turned by strate­gic im­per­a­tives.

Leav­ing Car­roll a tighter ship.

Tony Tra­har

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