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BT is set to reveal that Jan du Plessis, the South African-born City grandee, will become its new chairman as soon as Thursday.

The British telecoms company has been on the hunt for a replacement for Sir Mike Rake, who said last year that he would stand down in 2017 after a decade in the role.

Mr du Plessis, who is chairman of Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, was shortlisted for the job last month alongside Douglas Flint, the outgoing chairman of HSBC.

BT declined to comment, but sources close to the two companies said his appointment would be confirmed on Thursday. Another person added that Mr du Plessis will step down from the board of Rio along with the announcement of his appointment at BT.

During his eight-year stint as chairman, Mr du Plessis launched a $15bn rights issue to repair the miner’s balance sheet and saw off a takeover approach from Glencore

His decision to step down comes as the Anglo-Australian mining company grapples with a payments crisis in Africa. Earlier, the Australian federal police said they had started an investigation into a $10.5m payment made to a French consultant who helped Rio secure rights to a massive iron ore deposit in Guinea.

Sir Mike’s swansong will be at BT’s annual meeting in London in July, when he will probably face an agitated shareholder reaction to the telecoms company’s performance over the past year. Shares in BT have dropped by almost a third over the past year amid an accounting scandal at its Italian division, a profit warning about its government contracts and a failure to resolve a long-running argument with Ofcom over the future of its Openreach division.

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