Off to smell the roses
THE ANNOUNCED resignation of Cathie Markus, an Impala Platinum executive director, might herald other high-profile resignations in the mining sector, partly because its key people are making a killing.
In-the-money share options, on the back of sky-high profits, are making executives richer quicker. “Many executives are making bucket loads. In an environment where you’ve made money, why continue sitting in the same job?” an analyst asks.
Anglo Platinum’s Roeland van Kerckhoven is another long-standing platinum executive to announce his retirement this month.
Markus, however, insists that she just wants time to smell the roses, or “creative loafing”, as she terms it. “I’ve been here for 16 years.
“Clearly it wouldn’t have been appropriate to do it before,” she says. Markus is referring to the recent appointment of David Brown as Impala’s CEO, a post Markus says she never wanted. “It wasn’t my aspiration.”
Markus has been Impala’s legal counsel since 1991 and was most prominently involved in negotiations with the Royal
Bafokeng Nation, which is now a 13,4% shareholder through Royal Bafokeng Holdings.
According to Impala’s press release, Markus was party to almost every other corporate activity with which it was involved.
There are questions, however, regarding how Markus’s departure will affect perceptions of Impala’s management.
Having lost former CEO, Keith Rumble, last year, and now Markus, only three executives are left, Derek Engelbrecht, Les Paton and Brown himself. Says one analyst: “With all due respect, I’m worried about the depth there now. I’m uneasy.”
want to know if Brown can maintain a strong operational hold on the
That’s not to say Impala Platinum is facing hazardous times. On the contrary, the company is highly cash generative, has a relatively lazy balance sheet (and could therefore gear up for more expansion), and the market for platinum group metals remains strong.
There’s even the prospect of a bumper dividend at its year-end announcement, normally in August.
But Brown still has to prove himself. Clearly less cautious than his predecessor, Brown has already announced his intention to spend R3,7bn for African Platinum, an AIM-listed company. But as the former financial director, market watchers want to know if he can maintain a strong operational hold on the company.
Production fell 8% in the six months to December at the Impala Lease Area, the asset from which Impala derives the most metal. Costs also rose 22%. The strength of the market covers for these blips at the current time, but other operational problems could suddenly throw the spotlight on Brown, sans his savvy legal eagle, Markus.
Wants to do some ‘creative loafing’. Cathie Markus