JOHANNESBURG — There will shortly be a new player on the African mining and exploration business — that is E Oppenheimer & Son which manages the assets of the Oppenheimer family.
De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said he and son Jonathan intended using the $5,1bn proceeds from the sale of the Oppenheimer family stake in De Beers to pursue projects in South Africa and Africa.
Those ventures could include a return to the diamond mining business, although Oppenheimer pointed out there was a two-year restraint of trade clause concerning this in the agreement signed with Anglo American.
“I have never believed in just leaving money in the bank,” he told Miningmx. “Africa and South Africa are really exciting places to look at it in terms of business opportunities and we will continue to operate out of Johannesburg.”
The decision to sell out to Anglo has taken the market by surprise, not least because of comments made by Oppenheimer to Miningmx at the beginning of August when queried on his plans.
Asked at the time specifically about market rumours that Anglo was looking to buy the Oppenheimer stake in De Beers, he said:
“Not that I have heard. I think that’s more a case of you guys in the media busy writing columns about it. I have no feel for anything like that in my immediate future which is what, five years? But who knows? The world changes very quickly.”
That, it seems, is precisely what has now happened because Oppenheimer said the decision to sell followed an approach about two weeks ago by Anglo chairman John Parker with the purchase proposal.
“I was extremely surprised when John Parker came to see me about two weeks ago and put an offer on the table,” said Oppenheimer. “The decision to accept was not an easy one and we are saddened by the end of a century of history between the Oppenheimer family and De Beers.
“But it was the decision finally taken by the family for reasons that I am not prepared to go into.”
Asked why Anglo American had decided to make the offer Oppenheimer replied: “I don’t know. You would have to ask Anglo that. They are about to get a lot of money from the sale of assets in Chile, but really, I don’t know.”
That’s a reference to the Chilean government’s stated intention of exercising an option to buy 49% of Anglo’s Chilean copper mining subsidiary Anglo Sur for up to $6,75bn.
In a report published on October 17, RBC Capital Markets analyst Des Kilalea suggested that boosting its stake in De Beers was one of the possible uses that Anglo American might find for that cash.