(This version of the Nov 28 story was corrected to make clear PIC is largest Lonmin shareholder not majority owner in paragraph 2)
By Zandi Shabalala and Pratima Desai
LONDON (Reuters) - South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is planning to ask for two seats on the board of Lonmin by the end of 2017 and has suggested the platinum miner move its main listing to Johannesburg, its chief executive said.
Lonmin, 30 percent-owned by its largest shareholder PIC and listed in London since 1961, has been hobbled by persistently low platinum prices, rising costs and strikes, forcing it to tap investors three times in the last eight years.
State-run PIC, which manages $150 billion of government employee pensions, raised its stake in Lonmin in 2015 to 30 percent from 7 percent after a rights issue was undersubscribed.
“We are a 30 percent shareholder, so we can ask for at least two board seats. We will do it soon. It has become an urgent matter now,” CEO Daniel Matjila told Reuters in an interview in London, adding: “They may put (in) conditions like asking for more money”.
“We are more concerned about leadership. The chairman and the board should understand the challenges the company is facing and the role of the board and the executive should be clearly defined,” he said.
Lonmin spokeswoman Wendy Tlou said in a statement: “We would not want to comment on any statement the PIC might wish to make as we do engage with the PIC regularly as a shareholder.”
Matjila said PIC’s state shareholders, keen to keep jobs in South Africa’s mining industry, had expressed concern in a recent meeting about its exposure to Lonmin and what action was being taken to “to mitigate risk”.
“We don’t wish to exit. Let’s put representatives on the board to at least give guidance to management, to start taking the right decisions needed to stabilize the company and take it forward,” Matjila said.
Lonmin, which is the world’s third biggest platinum producer with output 650,000 ounces in 2017, carrying out an operational review to boost margins by selling off assets and laying off employees.
Its shares lost more than a third of their value on Nov. 3 after the firm delayed full-year results to complete the review.
Lonmin said this month it had enough liquidity to fund the business through the review process. But analysts at Goldman Sachs and Citi, among others, have said Lonmin needs a cash boost urgently to ensure its survival.
Matjila said PIC had also recommended Lonmin delist from London and move its main listing to Johannesburg, where it now has a secondary listing.
“It’s a lot easier. If you can save a few pounds to keep one or two workers. My colleagues have spoken to Ben Magara, the CEO, about this. The PIC resources team has raised those issues,” Matjila said.
“The London listing might be at a significant cost and what are the benefits? Is it liquidity? Is it trading? Is it attracting a lot of interest? I don’t think so.”
Lonmin has said it would move its headquarters for its operations to South Africa to save costs.
The firm’s liquidity crunch has eclipsed improvements in mine performance and a rise in net cash to $103 million at the end of September from $86 million at the end of June.
The 2015 cash call steadied Lonmin’s finances but the miner has still struggled since then.
Lonmin’s shares closed at 66 pence on Tuesday, hovering near their lowest on record. The stock was trading above 12 pounds at the start of 2011.
Reporting by Zandi Shabalala, Veronica Brown and Pratima Desai; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alexander Smith