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GOLDEN DEMAND:

By: Martin Creamer     20th May 2016 Gold demand has been hitting highs, with first-quarter demand at 1 290 t, a 21% year-on-year increase and the second-highest quarterly demand on record. The World Gold Council puts the higher demand down to big inflows into exchange-traded funds (ETFs), fuelled by investor concern about economic... 

GOLDEN DEMAND:

SMALL BUSINESS LIFELINE

By: Darlene Creamer     20th May 2016 News that government and business would be launching a fund to support small businesses is indeed welcome, particularly in light of the country’s dismal employment performance in the first quarter. However, it should not distract government from dealing with some of the more fundamental... 

SMALL BUSINESS LIFELINE

STUCK IN THE MUD

By: Martin Creamer     13th May 2016 The shares of BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, had their worst day in more than seven years last week when the news broke that the Brazilian Federal Public Prosecution Service had launched a A$43-billion legal case against it and Vale over the massive slimes dam burst at the... 

STUCK IN THE MUD

LOCALISATION CROSSROADS

By: Darlene Creamer     13th May 2016 For some time now, there have been grumblings about the failure of some rail original equipment manufacturers to live up to their local-content commitments. Now that the issue is receiving much needed public attention, it is vital that steps are taken to either ensure that the localisation... 

LOCALISATION CROSSROADS

WHY THE STRAIGHT JACKET, MINISTER?

By: Martin Creamer     6th May 2016 The vast bulk of mining company shareholdings – probably more than 95%, particularly in respect of larger companies – are not owned by individuals or their companies, but by huge pension funds and provident funds, local and foreign. These shares, along with those held individually by South... 

WHY THE STRAIGHT JACKET, MINISTER?

STEEL SQUEEZE

By: Darlene Creamer     6th May 2016 There is little question that the steel industry is taking strain globally, owing to too much supply chasing too little demand. In South Africa, however, an anomalous situation has arisen: prices are recovering and there are even shortages of some long-steel products. Unless well managed, the... 

STEEL SQUEEZE

STABBED IN THE BACK

By: Darlene Creamer     29th April 2016 New Minerals Minister Mosebenzi Zwane chose to take the mining industry by surprise when he unilaterally gazetted a revised Mining Charter without consulting a soul in mainstream mining. If his objective is to halt investment and retard the South African economy, then he will have achieved it... 

STABBED IN THE BACK

DOMESTIC MATTERS

By: Darlene Creamer     29th April 2016 With the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank confirming that international economic developments are unlikely to be supportive of growth in countries such as South Africa, more and more attention is going to have to be giving to reigniting domestic sources of growth. To open that... 

DOMESTIC MATTERS

THE R25 THAT AVERTED A STRIKE

By: Martin Creamer     22nd April 2016 The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) demanded big on the platinum belt – R12 500 a month entry level wage or the strike would continue. And it did, for five long months. In gold, AMCU has been infinitely more moderate and its strike threats exceedingly short-lived. An... 

THE R25 THAT AVERTED A STRIKE

TOUGHER TIMES

By: Darlene Creamer     22nd April 2016 Africa grew by only 3% in 2015, which was the continent’s slowest pace of growth since the 2009 global financial crisis and well below the 6.8% levels experienced between 2003 and 2008. The World Bank has also lowered its 2016 growth forecast for Africa to 3.3%, from 4.2% previously, largely... 

TOUGHER TIMES

GOLDEN GENUFLECTIONS

By: Martin Creamer     15th April 2016 Collective gold wage agreements have been thrown into disarray with the sidelines agreement struck by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and Sibanye Gold. The National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and UASA unions are feeling sore that the three-year deal they struck... 

GOLDEN GENUFLECTIONS

PAPERING THE CRACKS

By: Darlene Creamer     15th April 2016 African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s statement that the governing party would not “tear itself apart” by recalling a President who failed in his obligation to “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution” offered a tiny glimpse into the reasons behind its weak response to... 

PAPERING THE CRACKS

LEGAL PROBE

By: Martin Creamer     8th April 2016 A US law firm is reportedly taking steps to build a class-action lawsuit against the world’s biggest mining company. Business Wire reports that Lundin Law is urging investors with losses to contact it regarding possible violations of federal securities laws by BHP Billiton. The wire service adds... 

LEGAL PROBE

DUAL DILEMMA

By: Darlene Creamer     8th April 2016 There is little question that the South African Reserve bank is correct to use the tools at its disposal to ensure that inflation does not get out of control. However, there is increasing scepticism over whether the bank’s recent response to the spike in inflation is sensitive enough to the... 

DUAL DILEMMA

THE LONG WAIT

By: Martin Creamer     1st April 2016 The price of the basket of platinum-group metals (PGMs) in dollars is so low that even when converted into rands, it is still way off that of its precious metal cousin, gold, which has not only increased in dollars, but also moved into record territory in rands. Regrettably, the dollar prices of... 

THE LONG WAIT

DEFINING MOMENT

By: Darlene Creamer     1st April 2016 The Hollywood blockbuster Armageddon comes to mind as the rating agencies deliberate on whether or not to downgrade South Africa to junk. It’s time for Bruce Willis-style heroics. To prevail, the agencies will need to be convinced that we are not only ready to restore our fiscal balances, but... 

DEFINING MOMENT

IRON-WILLED, IRON-FISTED

By: Martin Creamer     25th March 2016 A bitter fight is under way Down Under over the deliberate over-supply of iron-ore by major producers as a way of crushing competitors. But all that has been crushed, say smaller iron-ore producers, is the Australian economy. Cliffs Natural Resources CE Laurenco Goncalves pulled no punches at the... 

IRON-WILLED, IRON-FISTED

JUNK-AVOIDANCE CHECKLIST

By: Darlene Creamer     25th March 2016 There is no doubting Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s determination to navigate South Africa through the stormy waters of the upcoming credit-rating reviews. However, he has also made it clear that there is no single junk-avoidance magic bullet, with the Budget comprising but one component. The... 

JUNK-AVOIDANCE CHECKLIST

TRUCULENT TAX TERRIER

By: Martin Creamer     18th March 2016 The South African Revenue Service (Sars) is digging up the past and imposing sky-high tax assessments on objecting mining companies. Sars first bit Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen Iron Ore Company, on which it imposed a R5.5-billion assessment. Now the truculent tax terrier has locked its jaws on Exxaro,... 

TRUCULENT TAX TERRIER

SERIOUS THREAT

By: Darlene Creamer     18th March 2016 South Africa’s prevailing drought is exacting a toll on the economy, on jobs and on food prices. Employment in agriculture decreased by 37 000 in the fourth quarter of last year, while wilting agricultural production is contributing to South Africa’s weak growth forecast. But food price increases... 

SERIOUS THREAT

THE LAST STRAW

By: Martin Creamer     11th March 2016 South African Revenue Service (Sars) has imposed a R5.5-billion tax assessment imposed on the Sishen Iron Ore Company (SIOC) for the tax years 2006 to 2010. To add insult to injury, the assessment includes R3.7-billion in interest and penalties. SIOC, in which JSE-listed Kumba Iron Ore has a... 

THE LAST STRAW

EXTREMELY FRAGILE

By: Darlene Creamer     11th March 2016 The difficulty of South Africa’s balancing act in avoiding a downgrade of its investment-grade credit rating cannot be underestimated. The fragility of the situation became strongly evident recently when doubts emerged over whether Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan still enjoyed political support... 

EXTREMELY FRAGILE

THE OUTLIER

By: Martin Creamer     4th March 2016 When a mining company is international it has the advantage of being able to compare jurisdictions and performance. One company which has done that graphically for the past two quarters is AngloGold Ashanti and the performance of South African gold mines within its constellation of 19 operations... 

THE OUTLIER

TIRED STRATEGY

By: Darlene Creamer     4th March 2016 It came as a huge relief when there were no opposition-party disruptions in Parliament during Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Speech. While the strategy was fairly effective in 2015, many South Africans have grown weary of the method. Hopefully opposition lawmakers will find new and more... 

TIRED STRATEGY

ELEPHANT TO MOUSE

By: Martin Creamer     26th February 2016 The once-iconic Anglo American, an important participant in the development of the South African economy, is in the process of becoming a pale shadow of its former self. A company that had 650 assets in the 1980s is heading for a mere 16 assets in 2016. In between, it dropped its primary listing... 

ELEPHANT TO MOUSE

IT'S ECONOMY CLASS, STUPID!

By: Darlene Creamer     26th February 2016 It was refreshing to see Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan flying economy from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Hopefully the rest of Cabinet will follow suit. It was less refreshing to learn of yet another delay to the publication of South African Airways’ annual report, which should have been released... 

IT'S ECONOMY CLASS, STUPID!

BUYERS' MARKET

By: Martin Creamer     19th February 2016 “When they cry, it’s time to buy”, goes the saying that potential investors and bankers are currently directing towards the stressed resources sector. US Global Investors CEO Frank Holmes describes the entire mining industry’s stocks as resembling “a big Walmart sale”, in what has become the... 

BUYERS' MARKET

SLASH & TAX

By: Darlene Creamer     19th February 2016 It’s a case of ‘Back to the Future 2’ with Pravin Gordhan returning to Parliament as Finance Minister after a two-year break – a sequel that rises from the ashes of the near-calamitous shuffling of the portfolio by President Jacob Zuma between December 9 and 13. As with his last appearance,... 

SLASH & TAX

JOB CUTS

By: Martin Creamer     12th February 2016 Mining companies in South Africa have given advance notice of 32 000 job cuts as commodity prices decline, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has told the media. Mining accounts for more than half of South Africa’s exports and employs 440 000 people, which is critical in a country with a... 

JOB CUTS

BUDGET SURGERY

By: Darlene Creamer     12th February 2016 There is little question that Budget 2016 will be watched even more closely than usual following the upheavals of December. There is also very little room of manoeuvre, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan address to be critical in determining whether or not South Africa is downgraded to junk. He... 

BUDGET SURGERY

EDGING TOWARDS FIRE SALES

By: Martin Creamer     5th February 2016 Mining companies in asset-disposal mode have been at pains to assure shareholders that fire sales of mining assets will not be countenanced. But as conditions worsen, there are early signs that some are edging towards concluding that getting low prices may be better than not getting anything at... 

EDGING TOWARDS FIRE SALES

STORM WARNING

By: Darlene Creamer     5th February 2016 While many parts of South Africa are in dire need of rain, the dark clouds on the horizon are, sadly, mostly of the economic variety. The country’s growth prospects are weak, investor confidence is low and the price outlook for many of the commodities we mine and export is miserable. 

STORM WARNING

ROCKY AND ROUGH

By: Martin Creamer     29th January 2016 There is a lot of bearish talk in mining right now as the Chinese economy slows more rapidly than expected, low commodity prices drive down prospects and profit growth looks far off. Mining assets are being subjected to the words sell, close, downsize and cut as mining-company CEOs resist going... 

ROCKY AND ROUGH

BALLOONING RAND GOLD PRICE

By: Martin Creamer     22nd January 2016 The gold price in rands has ballooned well beyond the R550 000/kg level, which is a great source of relief to the hard-pressed gold-mining industry and its shareholders, who saw share values rise sharply in a non-gold-mining world currently characterised by sharp share value decline. But the cost... 

BALLOONING RAND GOLD PRICE

CURRENCY CRUNCH

By: Darlene Creamer     22nd January 2016 The rand ended the year under intense pressure after currency traders reacted negatively to President Jacob Zuma’s shock decision to remove Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister and replace him with the little known David ‘Des’ van Rooyen. It recovered, but remained under pressure even after the... 

CURRENCY CRUNCH

RESTRICTED MOBILITY

By: Martin Creamer     15th January 2016 Mining is merely moving from its 2015 annus horribilis to its 2016 year of misfortune. The share prices of mining companies are retaining their bottom-of-the-barrel penchant, commodity prices are remaining in the doldrums and over supply is refusing to depart the scene. Still well in the red on... 

RESTRICTED MOBILITY

IN A BUBBLE

By: Darlene Creamer     15th January 2016 There are more and more signs that President Jacob Zuma is in a classical ‘presidential bubble’. He has surrounded himself with people who agree with him and he appears increasingly insensitive to the harsh realities being faced by South African citizens and by business. Could it burst before 2019? 

IN A BUBBLE

SNAP OUT OF IT

By: Martin Creamer     11th December 2015 Seven-year-old Snap Lake diamond mine in Canada, which has still to turn a profit, will have to snap out of it or be snapped off. News reports state that closure is one of the options De Beers is considering for its first mine to come into production outside of Africa. The Northwest Territories... 

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