London/Johannesburg - Australian gold mining executive Mark
Cutifani, a one-time trainee miner, has been appointed chief executive of Anglo
American [JSE:AGL], taking on what analysts and investors say is one of the
toughest jobs in the business.
Cutifani, who stepped down from his position as chief
executive of miner AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG] on Tuesday, has been one of
several outsiders expected to be in the running for the top job at Anglo after
Cynthia Carroll quit last year.
Carroll, under pressure from investors unhappy with the
group's languishing share performance, announced in October that she would be
stepping down after more than five years at the helm.
Cutifani, a 54-year-old, straight-talking father of seven,
was named by sources as a frontrunner for Carroll's job at the weekend and
analysts on Tuesday welcomed the swiftness in replacing her. Cutifani takes
over the reins on April 3.
He will be only the second non-South African to run Anglo,
but sources familiar with the appointment and industry sources say it was
Cutifani's South African mining credentials - specifically five years at the
helm of Johannesburg-based AngloGold - which were critical for Anglo. He was
also named head of the country's Chamber of Mines last year.
Anglo, for whom South Africa still accounts for more than
half forecast earnings, has battled South Africa's belligerent unions and faces
a year of restructuring at its platinum arm, in a country where one in four
people is unemployed, and where general elections are due in 2014.
Anglo's platinum arm Amplats, the world's largest producer
of the precious metal, has been battered by the wave of strikes that hit the
South African industry last year, as well as escalating costs and weak European
demand. An overhaul plan is expected later this month.
South Africa will not, however, be the only item on the
to-do list for Cutifani, and his lesser experience elsewhere may worry some
investors. Anglo - whose shares have lagged peers by almost 20% since the start
of last year - also faces challenges in copper and iron ore, where its flagship
Brazilian project Minas Rio has faced multiple delays and escalating costs.
While Cutifani's appointment should ease concerns in South
Africa over the country's importance for the group, analysts have said his
restructuring track record and focus on improving returns at AngloGold also
signals a willingness to consider all
options, including a long-awaited carve-out of some operations.
As head of AngloGold, a miner created from Anglo American's
gold assets, investors have welcomed his focus on improving returns, and he has
never ruled out a potential spin-off of the miner's South African operations.
Cutifani ran AngloGold from 2007, when he was plucked from
Canadian mining group Inco, now part of Brazil's Vale.
AngloGold said that until Cutifani takes over its chief
financial officer and technical development head will act as interim chief
Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.