Glencore CEO At Home With Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa's President Cyril RamaphosaPICTURE: Miningmix

JOHANNESBURG: Glencore has set its ambitions on expanding in SA, the homeland of CEO Ivan Glasenberg.

As the company’s former business partner, President Cyril Ramaphosa, promises an economic recovery, Glencore is reaping profits from coal and chrome as prices rise. The company announced in October a $1bn deal to buy Chevron’s oil refining and fuel service stations in SA and considered a bid for the Optimum coal mine.

The oil bid was “a strong vote of confidence in the South African environment”, said Martin Kingston, CEO of NM Rothschild in SA, which is advising Chevron on the sale.

“Glencore understands the environment very well. They are effective behind the scenes and … have their finger on the pulse.”

Glasenberg, who started his career trading South African coal in the 1980s, has a wide range of business connections in the country, including Ramaphosa. They have known each other for about 30 years and cemented their partnership in 2005, when Glencore picked Ramaphosa to be its black economic empowerment partner on the Shanduka Coal project. They teamed up again in 2012 to buy Optimum Coal Holdings.

“While he [Ramaphosa] is obviously keen to attract more investment … he will be extra careful in not granting any favours to businesses or people with whom he had previous business relationships,” said Prof Anton Eberhard of the University of Cape Town.

Glencore’s past relationship with Ramaphosa was likely to give the company “a higher level of confidence because they have a familiarity with his approach and philosophy”, said Kingston.

“We’re always happy to continue investing in SA,” Glasenberg said in a February conference call with analysts.

  • Bloomberg