Impala May Buy Platinum to Supply Clients Amid Strike

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. said it may buy metal on the open market to meet deliveries amid a 9 1/2-week strike at the world’s largest producers of the metal.

“We definitely can’t continue to supply all our clients as we normally would’ve done,” Johan Theron, a spokesman for Johannesburg-based Impala, the second-biggest producer, said today by phone.

The company will meet supply contracts with all South African clients and will prioritize “key” international customers at least until the end of the month, Theron said. The company met all deliveries in March, he said.

Impala’s Rustenburg Lease mines, which accounted for 58 percent of its mined output for the six months ended Dec. 31, as well as the biggest operations of Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Lonmin Plc have been halted since Jan. 23 as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union led more than 70,000 workers on a strike in support of higher wages.

Amplats, the largest producer, still has about 215,000 ounces of platinum stockpiles, half the amount it had when the strike started, Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said March 28. The company may also buy metal on the market to continue customer supplies, Griffith said.

Amplats Contracts

Amplats sent force majeure notices to some suppliers of goods and services to the operations affected by the strike, spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said by e-mail. Such notices state that circumstances prevent a company from fulfilling contracts.

“No force majeure notices have been issued to customers,” she said.

Platinum for immediate delivery rose as much as 1.2 percent, the most since March 5 on an intraday basis, and was trading 0.8 percent higher at $1,428.50 an ounce by 3:41 p.m. in Johannesburg. Today’s gains are pairing the metal’s losses to 1.9 percent since the AMCU notified the companies of its intention to strike on Jan. 20.

Platinum inventories are “being drained and being absorbed” as the producers’ stockpiles are nearing depletion, Justin Froneman, an analyst at SBG Securities Ltd. in Johannesburg, said by phone. Prices are likely to rise further as the extent of production losses become clearer, he said.

South Africa accounts for more than two-thirds of the world’s mined metal, used for jewelry and catalytic converters in vehicles to reduce harmful emissions.

“The strike has probably gone on for longer than what people anticipated,” Froneman said.

The AMCU demands basic wages be more than doubled within three years to 12,500 rand ($1,182) a month, compared with current minimum pay of 5,000 rand to 6,000 rand. Employers have offered pay increases of as much as 9 percent, compared with South Africa’s inflation rate of 5.9 percent in February.

Neither side has made new concessions during separate talks with the state’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration during the past week, Theron said.

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