* Strike to hit over half of global platinum output
* Amplats says back in profit in 2013
* Strike would set back Amplats' recovery
* Pretoria offers last-ditch mediation
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 22 Anglo American Platinum
(Amplats) swung back into profit in 2013 as it
rebounded from a wave of wildcat strikes but its recovery is
threatened by looming strikes across South Africa's platinum
Maintaining profit margins will be tough if the hardline
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) goes
ahead with its planned industrial action on Thursday at Amplats
and rivals Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
Around 100,000 workers or a fifth of South Africa's mining
labour force could down tools in a stoppage that would hit over
half of global production of the metal used to make
emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.
Amplats, the world's top producer, said on Wednesday its
2013 headline earnings per share were expected to be between 480
and 590 cents, compared with a loss of 562 cents for 2012, the
first time the Anglo American unit fell into the red.
Headline earnings per share are the main profit gauge in
South Africa. Amplats said its return to profit stemmed from
higher sales volumes and a favourable rand/dollar exchange rate.
AMCU's threatened strike could unravel its hard-fought
return to profit, especially if it is protracted.
The chief executives of the three affected platinum
producers said on Tuesday the industry could ill-afford further
production and job losses, noting they had lost a combined
879,400 ounces of output to labour stoppages in 2012 and 2013.
Companies have also dismissed AMCU's demands to more than
double the basic wage as "unaffordable and unrealistic".
The government has offered to mediate last-ditch talks to
avert a strike.
Implats spokesman Johan Theron said the company would be
willing to take part in talks, although AMCU leader Joseph
Mathunjwa was equivocal, saying its membership had to be
"We will look at those options," he told Johannesburg's Talk
Fresh stoppages in the platinum and gold mines would hit key
South African exports, putting more pressure a rand already near
5-year lows and dealing a fresh blow to investor confidence in
Africa's biggest economy.
President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National
Congress (ANC) are also keen to avoid labour unrest ahead of
general elections expected in around three months time.
AMCU emerged as the dominant union on the platinum belt
after poaching tens of thousands of members from the National
Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in a vicious turf war in which dozens
of people were killed.
The union is also threatening to strike over wages on
Thursday at several gold mines operated by AngloGold Ashanti
, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Gold.
Bullion producers are seeking a court order to halt the
strike on the grounds that a wage agreement signed with last
year with NUM - still the majority union on the gold mines -
applies to all workers in the sector.