Jonah’s firm foun­da­tion

Ghana­ian turn­ing down his ‘am­bas­sado­rial’ du­ties

Finweek English Edition - - Companies & markets - DAVID MCKAY

SAM JONAH, for­mer chair­man of An­gloGold Ashanti, is to form a di­ver­si­fied min­ing com­pany – Jonah Min­ing – that may pro­vide a plat­form for sep­a­rately floated busi­nesses.

Af­ter sev­eral years of sit­ting on the boards of other peo­ple’s com­pa­nies, the Ghana­ian min­ing en­tre­pre­neur wants his own. “It’s time to put some­thing be­hind the brand,” says Jonah in an in­ter­view. “I’m get­ting some friends to­gether and we’re putting money in.”

How­ever, he’s coy con­cern­ing the fi­nanc­ing. Stan­dard Bank will be in­di­rectly in­volved through its par­tic­i­pa­tion in Jonah Cap­i­tal, a private fi­nanc­ing firm that will help cap­i­talise Jonah Min­ing. But his “friends” could be al­most any­one. Jonah has an am­bas­sado­rial range bridg­ing pol­i­tics and busi­ness. “I’m go­ing to the Cen­tral African Repub­lic. The pres­i­dent wants to see me.”

Hang­ing in the re­cep­tion area of his Sand­ton of­fice are pic­tures of Jonah shar­ing a joke with Thabo Mbeki. There’s a more sober pho­to­graph of him with Nelson Man­dela. In an­other, he’s pic­tured ring­ing the bell at the New York Stock Ex­change on the list­ing of Ashanti Gold­fields, the firm he cre­ated and even­tu­ally merged with An­glo’s would-be or­phan, An­gloGold.

Bobby God­sell, An­gloGold Ashanti CEO, re­cently de­scribed Jonah as “a big man” – which he is in pres­ence – with­out be­ing tall. But his busi­ness net­work is equally gi­antic, as ev­i­denced by the ex­tra­or­di­nary num­ber of com­pany boards on which he cur­rently serves, mostly as a non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

But Jonah says those days are over. He re­cently re­signed the chair­man­ship of An­gloGold Ashanti and has plans to step down from a num­ber of other po­si­tions, in­clud­ing Equinox Min­er­als, a Toronto-listed firm. He also stepped down from Mit­tal Steel SA last year but cur­rently has po­si­tions on the boards of Toron­tolisted firms Moto Gold­mines and Uramin, as well as AIM-listed Cop­per Re­sources. There are oth­ers: Sierra Ru­tile, Equa­tor Ex­plo­ration, Ghana Air­ways, Range Re­sources. The list goes on.

“My pas­sion and in­ter­est have al­ways been to have an as­so­ci­a­tion with the ju­nior min­ing in­dus­try,” says Jonah, ex­plain­ing why he sits on so many boards. “An­glo put me on sev­eral boards as well.” Jonah has since re­signed those, in­clud­ing a seat at An­glo Plat­inum. “But now I have Jonah Min­ing,” he says.

The plan is for Jonah to be­come ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the com­pany, which will de­velop “a di­ver­si­fied port­fo­lio of as­sets”. “It will al­most be like a min­ing house with sep­a­rate di­vi­sions, rang­ing from tin to di­a­monds. What­ever be­comes large enough will be sep­a­rately listed.”

Jonah Cap­i­tal also has the rights to re­fin­ing tech­nol­ogy that can be turned to ac­count in both the iron ore and base met­als in­dus­tries, he says. “We can pro­duce cop­per in three hours com­pared to the week re­quired by the stan­dard elec­tro-win­ning tech­nol­ogy.”

With so many op­tions on the ta­ble, it’s still no sur­prise that Jonah will re­tain some board po­si­tions for the time be­ing. One is Uramin, a Cana­dian firm with of­fices in Sand­ton. Jonah is chair­man. It’s a ura­nium ex­plo­ration firm that’s seen its mar­ket value grow to more than US$1bn. It re­cently re­tained BMO Nes­bitt Burns to con­sider strate­gic op­tions. “We’re in­ter­ested in col­lab­o­ra­tion or con­sol­i­da­tion, ei­ther as a pas­sen­ger or for Uramin to be in the driv­ing seat,” Jonah says.

“The pres­i­dent wants to see me.” Sam Jonah

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