AngloGold Appoints Finance Head Venkatakrishnan to CEO

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. has appointed Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, its finance head, as chief executive officer to lead the third-biggest producer of the metal.

The appointment is effective immediately, Johannesburg-based AngloGold said in a statement today. The company considered internal and external candidates after Mark Cutifani stepped down to lead Anglo American Plc on April 3, leaving Venkatakrishnan, 48, known as Venkat, and Executive Director Tony O’Neill as joint interim CEOs.

Venkat offers a “seamless” transition as he is familiar with AngloGold’s operations, finances and strategy, David Davis, a mining analyst at SBG Securities Ltd., said last month. His appointment comes before wage negotiations expected in June, held through South Africa’s Chamber of Mines. The National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of the ruling African National Congress, has said it will seek a double-digit increase.

“Venkat’s challenge will be to manage the difficult relationship between mine workers, unions, the ANC and economic reality,” John Meyer, an analyst with London-based SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP, said in an e-mailed note. “The recent gold-price fall combined with an uncertain outlook for the metal gives less room for maneuver.”

Bullion had its biggest two-day drop in 33 years last month. The metal has rebounded 9.6 percent from a two-year low it touched on April 16. AngloGold gained 1.6 percent to 169.66 rand by the close in Johannesburg.

‘Extremely Pleased’

Venkat was the chief financial officer at Ashanti Goldfields until that company’s merger with AngloGold Ltd. in May 2004, creating what is now AngloGold Ashanti, the producer said in its statement. He became CFO of the combined entity and joined the board in 2005.

“We’re extremely pleased to have an executive of Mr. Venkatakrishnan’s caliber to lead AngloGold Ashanti through the next phase of its development,” Chairman Tito Mboweni said in the statement.

The company had a proposal to split its South African assets from mines elsewhere rebuffed by the country’s government, three people familiar with the matter said last month. Shareholders including John Paulson, the billionaire whose hedge fund is the largest investor in AngloGold, have said a reorganization would boost the value of its stock.

Venkat will remain CFO until further notice as AngloGold undertakes a global search for his replacement, the company said.

“We will build on the good work done over the years in order to realize the value inherent in our portfolio, while placing a sharp focus on returns, margins and free cashflow,” Venkat said in the statement.

(Updates with closing share price in fifth paragraph.)
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