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Lonmin CEO Says Xstrata Holding Is ‘Unfinished Business’

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Lonmin Plc Chief Executive Officer Ian Farmer said even as Xstrata Plc’s shareholding in the platinum producer has been “unfinished business for a while,” it’s premature to say how Xstrata’s possible merger with Glencore International Plc could affect the company.

“The market has speculated for some time that they’re perhaps more likely sellers than buyers,” Farmer said of Xstrata in an interview on the sidelines of the Investing in African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town today. “We’d be getting ahead of ourselves to speculate.”

Glencore, the world’s largest publicly traded commodities supplier, agreed to buy Xstrata for about 26 billion pounds ($41 billion) in shares in the biggest mining takeover, they said in a joint statement today. Xstrata holds 24.6 percent of Lonmin, with a market value of about 526 million pounds ($832 million), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A combined Glencore and Xstrata would probably sell their stake in Lonmin, the third-largest platinum producer, helping spur deals in the platinum and ferrochrome industry, Liberum Capital Ltd. said on Feb. 3.

“Platinum has no strategic interest for Glencore as marketing opportunities don’t really exist therefore a disposal is highly likely,” Ash Lazenby and Dominic O’Kane, analysts at Liberum Capital, wrote in a research note to clients.

Share Drop

Lonmin’s shares dropped 2.3 percent to 1,055 pence by 3:39 p.m. in London, extending their decline in the past year to 42 percent. Larger producers Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. also fell as the outlook for platinum demand dimmed along with global growth prospects.

“We’re in for a bumpy ride in the short term,” Farmer said today. “The market has been disappointing and there are still quite some material uncertainties.”

Platinum has retreated 11 percent in the past year and traded at $1,639 an ounce.

“We’re watching our balance sheet management very carefully,” Farmer said. Lonmin will keep its capital expenditure plans “under review,” he said.

Lonmin would like to gradually increase output at three new shafts to help make the company more efficient. “In an ideal world we’d like to continue with that program, but clearly we have to cut according to our cloth,” Farmer said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carli Lourens in Johannesburg at clourens@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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