Could An­glo be leav­ing the City of Gold?

Finweek English Edition - - THE WEEK - Ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

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hun­dred em­ploy­ees of De Beers this month be­gan mak­ing the 3.7km trip from 17 Char­ter­house Street, of­fices of the di­a­mond group for nearly a cen­tury and hand­ily lo­cated near Ye Olde Mitre – Lon­don’s old­est pub – to 20 Carl­ton House Ter­race, HQ of 85% share­holder An­glo Amer­i­can.

The move is part of a cost-sav­ing drive that has more than just sen­ti­men­tal value at its heart as it also sees An­glo shed about a third of its 133 000 strong staff.

A nat­u­ral ques­tion flow­ing from these moves is whether An­glo is con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar change to its Jo­han­nes­burg prop­er­ties. Af­ter all, An­glo owns four sub­stan­tial build­ings in Jo­han­nes­burg, in­clud­ing the iconic 44 Main Street, the walls of which are cov­ered with ta­pes­tries and Ge­or­gian etch­ings.

Says Pranill Ram­chan­der, spokesper­son for the UK group in Jo­han­nes­burg: “Every­thing is up for con­sid­er­a­tion; we would con­sider it.” That sounds very much like a yes; that An­glo is to down­size its Jo­han­nes­burg pres­ence, if not va­cate the place al­to­gether.

Sources tell fin­week though that this isn’t a sim­ple de­ci­sion. Thought must go to­wards what An­glo rep­re­sents to Jo­han­nes­burg, not least of which is its found­ing-fa­ther po­si­tion. It also con­trib­utes to­wards the se­cu­rity of the city.

“They [An­glo] have to make some calls, es­pe­cially when you’re chang­ing the shape of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, change will in­evitably oc­cur. And you’re al­ready see­ing that. When you walk around the of­fices there, there are a lot of va­can­cies,” one source says.

An­glo Amer­i­can has al­ready taken its over­heads down by 50% and is look­ing to achieve more. Of the four build­ings in Jo­han­nes­burg, it could prob­a­bly com­press em­ploy­ees who sur­vived the down­siz­ing into two build­ings.

Might it also look to repli­cate the De Beers move in Jo­han­nes­burg with the di­a­mond group’s sur­viv­ing em­ploy­ees mov­ing from the Crown lodg­ings in the west of the city to Mar­shall Street or Main?

In­ter­est­ingly, De Beers rents its of­fices in Crown whereas An­glo Amer­i­can owns its premises. If such a move were af­fected, it would also bring the groups to­gether as they once shared of­fices prior to the con­tro­ver­sial delist­ing of De Beers by pre­vi­ous part-owner, the Op­pen­heimer fam­ily. As for Char­ter­house Street, its famed high-se­cu­rity vaults in which it once stored bil­lions of dol­lars worth of di­a­monds – for use when the mar­ket was starved of sup­ply – is no longer re­quired.

In a new 10-year mar­ket­ing agree­ment through its Botswanan joint ven­ture com­pany Deb­swana, De Beers agreed to move its di­a­mond-sort­ing op­er­a­tions to the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, Gaborone.

Ac­cord­ing to The Guardian, An­glo will seek a buyer for its Char­ter­house of­fices, in­clud­ing the rooftop he­li­pad used by Nicky Op­pen­heimer, once the chair­man of De Beers be­fore sell­ing his fam­ily’s stake for a neat $5.1bn – roughly half of An­glo’s value to­day.

That sounds very much like a yes; that An­glo is to down­size its Jo­han­nes­burg pres­ence, if not va­cate the place al­to­gether.

The De Beers head­quar­ters in Char­ter­house Street, cen­tral Lon­don.

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