Anglo American announces new chief executive

Australian gold mining executive Mark Cutifani was one of several outsiders for the top job at Anglo American after Cynthia Carroll quit last year

Australian gold mining executive Mark Cutifani, a one-time trainee miner, has been appointed chief executive of Anglo American, taking on what analysts and investors say is one of the toughest jobs in the business.

Cutifani, who stepped down from his position as chief executive of South African miner AngloGold on Tuesday, has been one of several outsiders expected to be in the running for the top job at Anglo after Cynthia Carroll quit last year.

Carroll, under pressure from investors unhappy with the group’s languishing share performance, announced in October that she would be stepping down after more than five years at the helm.

Cutifani, a 54-year-old, straight-talking father of seven, was named by sources as a frontrunner for Carroll’s job at the weekend and analysts on Tuesday welcomed the swiftness in replacing her. Cutifani takes over the reins on 3 April.

He will be only the second non-South African to run Anglo, but sources familiar with the appointment and industry sources say it was Cutifani’s South African mining credentials – specifically five years at the helm of Johannesburg-based AngloGold – which were critical for Anglo. He was also named head of the country’s Chamber of Mines last year.

Anglo, for whom South Africa still accounts for more than half forecast earnings, has battled South Africa’s belligerent unions and faces a year of restructuring at its platinum arm, in a country where one in four people is unemployed, and where general elections are due in 2014.

Anglo’s platinum arm Amplats, the world’s largest producer of the precious metal, has been battered by the wave of strikes that hit the South African industry last year, as well as escalating costs and weak European demand. An overhaul plan is expected later this month.

South Africa will not, however, be the only item on the to-do list for Cutifani, and his lesser experience elsewhere may worry some investors. Anglo – whose shares have lagged peers by almost 20% since the start of last year – also faces challenges in copper and iron ore, where its flagship Brazilian project Minas Rio has faced multiple delays and escalating costs.

While Cutifani’s appointment should ease concerns in South Africa over the country’s importance for the group, analysts have said his restructuring track record and focus on improving returns at AngloGold also signals a willingness to consider all options, including a long-awaited carve-out of some operations.

As head of AngloGold, a miner created from Anglo American’s gold assets, investors have welcomed his focus on improving returns, and he has never ruled out a potential spin-off of the miner’s South African operations.

Cutifani ran AngloGold from 2007, when he was plucked from Canadian mining group Inco, now part of Brazil’s Vale.

AngloGold said that until Cutifani takes over its chief financial officer and technical development head will act as interim chief executives.

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