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“I’ve got nothing to say,” was, in effect, the sum of Cynthia Carroll’s defence when Anglo American’s chief executive was quizzed about Xstrata’s nil-premium merger proposal. Instead, she offered an almost Panglossian view of the South African miner’s longer-term prospects. Little new, in fact, was revealed at the first-half results on Friday.
There was an update on cost savings. Ms Carroll said she was a quarter of the way towards delivering the $2bn that has been promised by 2011. (Xstrata thinks it can extract $1bn more.) She took the opportunity to trumpet a Chilean discovery that will boost Anglo’s copper resources by half. Ms Carroll also confirmed that the miner’s other Latin American developments, in iron ore and nickel, were on track.
But, in essence, she left Anglo’s standalone investment case untouched. For now, the company is sticking to its time-honoured promise of jam tomorrow, not jam today.
That may not be enough to sway investors clamouring for faster delivery.
The optimistic view is that Ms Carroll has kept her powder dry in case Xstrata returns with a new offer, backed by a half-decent premium. For now, though, Ms Carroll’s response was only to say that she was as impatient for change within Anglo as investors were.
Unsurprisingly, this did little for Anglo’s share price.
Indeed, investors face a conundrum. Anglo stock has had a nice run since Xstrata first pitched its offer, rising by 12 per cent since late June. Even so, it has underperformed its peers. Over the same period, the FTSE mining index has risen by almost 20 per cent.
There is latent value in Anglo but little sign that it is about to be unlocked any time soon. Seasoned Anglo shareholders may be acclimatised to long waits and veld-like distant horizons. For the rest, it may be time to take profits.
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