* Probe centres on 2010 black economic empowerment deal
* CFO says financing is fine at present
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Feb 13 South Africa's Gold Fields
said a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
probe of a deal in which it gave a stake in a mine to black
investors was hindering its access to debt markets but it could
still make use of bank financing.
Such investigations raise legal concerns with issuers in
debt capital markets, making it more arduous for companies under
investigation to tap them.
"If we had to enter the debt capital markets it becomes
difficult. But in terms of bank financing it's a lot easier to
do it," the bullion producer's chief financial officer, Paul
Schmidt, told journalists on Thursday in response to a question
about the issue.
"It's a lot easier to deal with the banks because they need
to make a call. When you go to the capital markets you need sign
off from the lawyers," he said, adding that the company was
working on a bank deal in Ghana where it has operations.
Gold Fields, which is also listed in the United States and
so subject to scrutiny from U.S. regulators, said in September
it was being probed over the 2.1 billion rand ($191 million)
2010 deal and the granting of a mining licence for its South
Deep mine near Johannesburg.
The transaction saw Gold Fields give a 9 percent stake in
South Deep to a group of black investors to meet government
targets for black economic empowerment - known as BEE - which
Such targets are designed to address the racial imbalances
and economic disparities that still exist in Africa's largest
economy two decades after the end of white apartheid rule.
The South Deep deal has come under particular scrutiny
because the beneficiaries include Baleka Mbete, chairperson of
the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as well as relatives
of anti-apartheid heroes including the late Nelson Mandela.
"We're working on bank debt and it's not inhibiting my
financing plans at the moment," Schmidt said.
Chief Executive Nick Holland said SEC investigations were
"There are thousands of companies in the U.S. with SEC
investigations. And they carry on operating their businesses,"
he said. "We're not concerned with our funding."
The Gold Fields executives were speaking after the company
posted a slight quarterly rise in earnings as production rose 21
percent but its share price took a pounding as investors focused
on a $672 million impairment.