South Africa could be the centre of mining finance for Africa, according to Mick Davis, CEO of international mining company Xstrata (www.xstrata.com), as reported in the local Business Day (www.businessday.co.za) newspaper. However, he is reported to have told a business school audience that restrictions by the JSE Ltd stock exchange (www.jse.co.za) and remaining exchange controls made this almost impossible to achieve.
Africa contains some of the world’s richest untapped mineral deposits and could be the world’s next major copper- and cobalt-producing region. Mr Davis says that South Africa should allow free flow of funds in and out and scrap exchange controls completely if it wanted to attract foreign resources companies to the JSE.
Xstrata reportedly operates in 20 countries and is evaluating 20 new projects across the globe. It is listed in London and has 15% of its assets in South Africa, Mr Davis is described by the newspaper as “the maverick CEO who has built Xstrata into a major global resources player in just 8 years”.
According to the report, he said the commodities “super-cycle” was not over yet – but that if SA wanted to take full advantage this time, the government and mining industry had to work together to restore the mining industry’s competitiveness. He cited unstable transport and energy infrastructure, skills shortages and “constrained capacity” in regulatory bodies as factors that had prevented SA’s mining sector reaching its potential.
“The mining sector’s GDP (gross domestic product) contribution actually shrank by 1% during one of the greatest natural resource booms in history.”
The medium- term outlook for commodities remained very promising. Driving forces of the “secular change” in demand in recent years – industrialisation and urbanisation, particularly in China but also in India, Brazil and others – were still in place. However, the supply side remained fractured and the financial crisis has delayed many projects, making it more likely that the supply of certain commodities would fall significantly short of demand.
He also called for amendments to the regulations that prevent foreign-listed companies from enjoying full indexation on the JSE, saying without this there would be no liquidity in such companies’ shares, which would mean they would not be able to access capital in SA and so would not waste time or money listing on the JSE.
It is important for listed companies to be included in the FTSE/JSE indices so that funds that track the index are obliged to invest in their shares. Companies such as Anglo American, which moved its primary listing to London but retained a dual listing on the JSE, are included in the index. Newer entrants are not, such as British American Tobacco, which gained a secondary listing on the JSE in 2008. Xstrata has the fact that it cannot get indexed is a potential problem.
According to the newspaper, Mr Davis said major global players had operations across the globe and if there was uncertainty in one country about the regulatory, financial or political regime, investments would be diverted to another.
Security of energy supply was critical. Power utility Eskom should continue to be the major generator of power. However it was quicker and cheaper for resources companies to build their own generation capacity, all they needed was a credible price and the right regulation.