April 30, 2019 / 8:33 PM / 2 months ago

Agarwal votes against Anglo American board appointment

* New board member backed by 74 percent

* Chairman says next appointment will reflect South African ties

LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - Billionaire Anil Agarwal voted against Anglo American’s appointment of a new Brazilian board member, saying the focus should be on South Africa, in a clash between the company’s biggest shareholder and the board.

Marcelo Bastos, whose appointment as a non-executive director was announced in March, has more than 30 years of operational and project experience in mining, particularly throughout South America. He was backed by 74 percent of shareholder votes, Anglo American said in an email.

Agarwal’s private family trust Volcan Investments issued a statement saying Agarwal had voted against.

“Volcan believes Anglo American should renew its focus on opportunities in South Africa,” the statement said.

“It had recommended the company increase the number of South Africans on the board to more closely align board composition to the importance of Anglo American’s businesses in South Africa.”

Agarwal, chairman of India’s Vedanta who has more than 19 percent of Anglo American, began amassing a stake in Anglo American in 2017.

He has made clear his interest in South Africa, where Vedanta has assets, but he has repeatedly denied that he is planning a takeover and says the stake is an investment based on his belief in Anglo as a company, for his family trust.

Anglo American Chairman Stuart Chambers told Tuesday’s annual general meeting in London the company’s aim was to reflect “the areas of expertise that we feel we need most pressingly”.

“Given that South America currently represents roughly one third of our business, and that is before the addition of our major new copper project at Quellaveco in Peru, the nomination committee’s first priority was to identify someone of Marcelo’s calibre and expertise,” he said.

He also said the next non-executive director would “reinforce the board’s experience in relation to South Africa”.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Anglo American said the company was betting on South America as its main growth area for base metals, including copper, in the coming years.

The company’s share price has outperformed peers in part because of its promising exposure to copper, a metal expected to be in high demand from increased electrifiction and battery vehicles. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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