This article titled “Lonmin set to breach loan agreements over South African mine strike” was written by Rupert Neate, for The Guardian on Tuesday 21st August 2012 17.17 UTC
Lonmin has been forced to go cap in hand to its banks after admitting that it will breach its loan agreements as a result of a strike that led to the shooting of 34 miners last week.
The London-listed platinum miner was forced to warn investors that the shutdown of its Marikana mine 60 miles from Johannesburg will result in debt covenants being breached.
Lonmin said it was in “constructive discussions” with its banking syndicate about resolving the problem.
However, the company admitted that it has been forced into “reviewing all the options available to strengthen its financial structure, including possible access to the equity capital markets”.
The formal announcement that the FTSE 100 miner is considering an emergency rights issue comes just three days after it strongly dismissed reports that it was planning such a move to raise up to bn.
In addition, last Thursday the company released a formal statement saying: “Net debt remains well within the limits and terms of its existing bank debt facilities.”
Analysts say the company will have little choice but to tap shareholders for an extra 0m-bn. Experts at Deutsche Bank have said the strike will cost Lonmin at least m in lost production.
UBS analysts warned that the unrest is “unlikely to be resolved swiftly and will probably continue for the next six to eight weeks”. They added that there was an “increasing likelihood of contagion, with market focus now shifting to Amplats [Anglo American Platinum, the world’s top platinum producer]”.
Lonmin’s shares, which have lost 44% of their value over the past year, closed up 2.4% at 624.5p on Tuesday. It is the first time the shares have ended up in nine days of trading.
The company, which was once part of Tiny Rowland’s Lonrho conglomerate, has relented on its ultimatum to striking staff that they would be sacked if they continued to fail to turn up for work.
The company had told 3,000 miners striking over low pay that they would lose their jobs if they failed to turn up . But the world’s third-largest platinum miner was ordered by the South African government to lift the ultimatum. “The president [President Jacob Zuma] has declared this week as a mourning week. We want all, including mine bosses, to respect this,” police minister Nathi Mthethwahe told reporters in Rustenburg late on Monday, according to the South African Mail & Guardian.
On Tuesday, Mark Munroe, Lonmin’s executive vice-president, said sacking thousands of workers would not improve the tense situation at the mine.
“It won’t help if Lonmin goes out and dismisses a whole lot of people for not coming to work today,” he told South Africa’s TalkRadio 702 FM. “It will set us back significantly in terms of violence, in terms of building trust.”
Some families still do not know whether their loved ones are dead or among about 250 arrested protesters and 78 people being treated in hospital.
Lonmin said a third of its 28,000 workforce were back at work on Tuesday, including a fifth of the 3,000 striking rock drillers.
The South African parliament debated the deaths, which have sparked a national outcry and are the worst single example of police violence since the end of apartheid. United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa described the shooting as a “massacre”.
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