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Possible SA platinum merger denied

Aquarius Platinum’s
Kroondal mine
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 09 September 2008 – South Africa’s Mvelaphanda Resources (Mvela) – a South African BEE firm aiming to build a sustainable black owned and controlled mining company – has denied that it has been in talks with Aquarius Platinum about a possible merger with the world’s third-largest platinum producer Lonmin.
“At the moment we haven’t had discussions with Aquarius about anything like that,” Mvela executive commercial manager James Wellsted told Reuters.

The news agency reports that The Sunday Telegraph claimed that Lonmin – which has spurned a 33-pound per share takeover offer from Swiss-based Exstrata – had been in talks about a three-way merger with Aquarius and Mvelaphanda to create the world’s second-biggest platinum company and evade being taken over by mining giant Xstrata.

The secret talks, which started several weeks ago, were reported to involve a plan by Aquarius Platinum and Mvelaphanda Group to reverse into Lonmin to create a rival platinum giant to Anglo Platinum – the world’s biggest producer of the metal, the newspaper added. It said that under the terms of the deal, which are not yet finalised, Lonmin shareholders would be offered an all-share deal, thought to be worth £38 a share, rather than selling out for cash to Xstrata.

Wellsted said players in the platinum sector had held informal discussions in the past about consolidation, but emphasised that Mvela had not been in contact with either Aquarius or Lonmin since Xstrata’s proposed bid on 6 August.

“There have been discussions with most companies in the sector, but as to specific transactions with Aquarius or Lonmin, we haven’t had that level of discussion,” he added.

Neither Lonmin nor Aquarius were immediately available for comment on the Telegraph article. The newspaper story referred to Mvelaphanda Group, but Reuters said that firm no longer had any interests in mining after hiving off Mvela Resources. Mvela Group was also not immediately available for comment.

Last week, Lonmin again rejected Xstrata’s US$10 billion (R75 billion) takeover bid as too low, but said it wanted talks with its hostile suitor on potential synergies. The news agency reported that Lonmin had said it was exploring options, but declined to say whether it had been approached by other parties about a counter bid.