Monday, December 21, 2009

South Africa

History

* Bantu-speakers, the Xhosa, San and Khoekhoe people all inhabited the area that is now South Africa long before Europeans reached the country. In 1652, the Cape became a Dutch possession. Because of a shortage of farm labour, the Dutch imported slaves from West Africa, Madagascar, and the East Indies.
* The British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806 and abolished slavery in 1833. This led to the Great Trek, an emigration north and east of about 12,000 Boers (Dutch farmers) who founded their own republics, the central Orange Free State and Transvaal.
* The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) in the interior led to wealth and immigration. The Boers resisted British encroachment fiercely, but in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) they were defeated. Full sovereignty over the South African colonies was given to Britain.
* In 1910, The Union of South Africa was created, bringing together the Cape and Natal colonies and the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal. The South African Party, made up of the previous Afrikaner parties, held power and enforced repressive measures to entrench white power. The African National Congress (ANC) was established in 1912 in protest against the treatment of blacks in the country.
* In 1948, the National Party was voted into power. It instituted a policy of apartheid – the separate development of the races. As the years passed, apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to protests, unrest and oppression within South Africa and sanctions and divestment abroad.
* Only in 1990 did the National Party lift the ban on 33 left-wing political organisations including the ANC. It also released political prisoner Nelson Mandela from jail. Apartheid legislation was gradually dismantled.
* South Africa’s first democratic election, held in April 1994, was pronounced ‘free and fair’. The ANC won by an overwhelming majority and Nelson Mandela was inducted as President. The current President of South Africa is Thabo Mbeki, who will rule until 2009.

Geography

* South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. It borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho as well as the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
* The low-lying coastal zone is narrow, giving way to a mountainous escarpment that separates it from the high inland plateau.
* There are variations in climate and topography throughout the country. The eastern coastline is lush and well-watered, while the inland Karoo plateau is very dry. The south-western corner of the country has a Mediterranean climate, while Sutherland, in the Northern Cape, has mid-winter temperatures as low as -15°C.
* There are only two major rivers in South Africa – the Limpopo and the Orange.
* Cape Town is South Africa’s legislative capital, Pretoria is its administrative capital, Bloemfontein is its judicial capital and Johannesburg is the biggest city.

Demographics

* In 2007, the population of South Africa was estimated at 47.9 million.
* According to the 2001 census, black Africans formed 79.5%, whites formed 9.2%, coloureds formed 8.9% and Indians/Asians formed 2.5% of the population.
* Black Africans consist of many ethnic groups, including Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho and Bapedi. The white population descends from many ethnic groups, including Dutch, German, French Huguenot and British. The term ‘coloured’ refers to people of mixed race descended from slaves brought to the colonies, the Khoekhoe people and people of mixed descent. The major part of the Asian population is Indian in origin, although there are also significant groups of Chinese and Vietnamese South Africans.
* In the 2001 census, Christians accounted for 79.7% of the population. Muslims accounted for 1.5 % and Hindus for 1.3%. The rest of the population had no religious affiliation or were unspecified. Many black Africans adhere to traditional indigenous religions. Other religions practiced in South Africa are Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism and the Baha’i faith.
* There are eleven official languages – Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdabele, isiXhosa and isiZulu. The three most spoken home languages are isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans.

Economy

* In many respects, South Africa can be considered a developed country – it has an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors and a top-ranked stock exchange. However, beyond the economic centres, development is marginal and poverty is prevalent; the majority of South Africans live below the poverty line. As such, South Africa has extremely high income inequality.
* South Africa’s economic policy focuses on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus, and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas. It aims to increase job growth and household income. After 1994, the government implemented affirmative action policies referred to as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). These have led to a rise in black economic wealth and the emergence of a black middle class.
* South Africa’s main industries are mining, automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs and commercial ship repair.
* South Africa is the world’s largest producer of platinum, gold and chromium. A substantial amount of revenue also comes from the tourism industry.
* In 2007, state-owned electricity supplier, Eskom, began to experience a lack of capacity in the generation and reticulation of electricity. As such, countrywide blackouts have become common-place and a policy of electricity rationing has been instituted. This has had a damaging effect on South Africa’s economy. Other economic challenges are unemployment, poverty and a high incidence of HIV/AIDS.
* The official currency is the South African rand (ZAR). This was the best-performing currency against the US dollar between 2002 and 2005.

Social services and infrastructure

* The health care system in South Africa consists of a large public sector and smaller private sector. Basic primary health care is provided free by the state. However, this is under-resourced and over-used, having to deliver services to 80% of the population.
* In 2008, South Africa will spend R75-billion (US$1 billion) on social assistance in the form of disability, old age and child support grants.
* In 2007, there were 728 airports in South Africa, 146 of these with paved runways. Many overseas carriers fly to and from the international airports of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.
* There are ports in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay. Durban is the largest and busiest of these.
* South Africa’s rail industry is the most developed in Africa. All major cities are connected by rail. South Africa’s road network currently covers 7,200 km.
* Schooling in South Africa is compulsory between the ages of seven and 15. Schools differ according to size, character and quality of education. Public institutions are funded by the state, while private schooling is very common. Fee-free schools exist in the country’s most poverty-stricken areas.

Marine environment

* The South African coastline stretches for approximately 3,000 km, from Namibia in the west to Mozambique in the east. The west coast is washed by the cold Benguela current, while waters on the east coast are much warmer.
* The Agulhas Current, which flows along the east coast has a great diversity of marine life while the Benguela upwelling system off the west coast supports large numbers of marine animals, but the marine fauna and flora are less diverse.
* South Africa’s coastline is relatively smooth. As such there is only one good natural harbour, at Saldanha, north of Cape Town.
* Approximately 10,000 species of marine plants and animals have been recorded in South Africa’s marine waters. This represents almost 15% of global marine species diversity.
* In South Africa, 23% of the coastline is protected by marine protected areas but only 9% of these areas are fully protected, no-take zones. Also, the marine protected areas are not distributed evenly along the coast and thus do not fully represent South Africa’s coastal marine biodiversity.

Fisheries

* While South Africa has an active commercial fishing industry, fisheries remain a relatively small sector within the South African economy, contributing approximately 1% to national GDP annually.
* In 2002, fisheries provided employment to 16,854 South Africans in the primary sector, and 27,730 people in the secondary sector.
* Subsistence and small scale fishers operate along the entire South African coastline, particularly in the Western Cape province.
* More than 4,500 commercial fishing vessels are licensed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The main species caught are anchovy, pilchard, hake, squid and rock lobsters. Tuna, snoek and yellowtail are the most important species caught by handline.
* Approximately 90% of high value fish (e.g. rock lobster and squid) that is caught in South African waters is exported, mainly to the European Union and the United States.
* Since 1994, the fishing industry in South Africa has undergone a process of transition, with many new historically disadvantaged entrants joining the industry. This has meant that established players have seen their fishing rights eroded. However, established companies continue to dominate the fish processing sector.
* Strict measures are employed to prevent overfishing. These include the allocation of fishing quotas and the imposition of controls such as closed seasons and minimum sizes.
* In 2006, long-term rights were granted to fishing companies and this has already created stability in the fisheries sector. The expansion of the industry is limited by the natural productive capacity and sustainability of the living marine resources.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zimbabwean Economy at a Glance

Current economic indications are pointing to an economic recovery on the back of determined efforts by the government to maintain sound macroeconomic policies, and to attract domestic and foreign investors and significant donor support. The situation could however deteriorate if the country fails to secure cash budget support and humanitarian assistance. Zimbabwe’s external debt burden is unsustainable even if policies are improved and medium-term financing gaps are filled by concessional financing.

An economic turnaround would not be possible without foreign assistance and private capital inflows, even assuming sound policy implementation. The fiscal discipline imposed by the multi-currency system would underpin a reduction in CPI inflation (in U.S. dollar terms) below 10 percent in 2009. Low inflation, the on-going liberalization of economic activities, and a gradual pickup in financial intermediation would help arrest the decade-long economic decline. The significant improvement in Zimbabwe’s terms of trade projected by the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, and an expected increase in foreign credit lines and private capital inflows would also support economic growth.

Zimbabwe is a key player in the SADC region, much of the imports and exports from the region transit to the ports via South Africa. The economy requires big fundamental reconstruction which requires substantial investment and funding.

In an attempt to arrest economic decline, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (“MDC”) and South Africa African National Union - Patriotic Font (“ZANU-PF”) formed a new coalition government in February 2009. The new unity government is working to rebuild the economy, and initial indicators hint at rapid growth from a low base. Much work lies ahead, and the unity government’s existence is hardly assured, but real Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) growth could hit double-digit levels in 2010 as idle capacity is reactivated.

The country has formally recognized the use of foreign currency as legal tender in South Africa, and presented its budgets in United States dollars, as well as South African, dollars for the first time since independence in 1980. This should help end the scourge of hyperinflation, at least in foreign currency terms. The official recognition of foreign currency as legal tender is already paying dividends with hyperinflation now a thing of the past coupled with rising private consumption.

GDP which stood at -14 percent in the first quarter of 2009 is forecast to reach 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter and predicted to reach double digit in 2010. Figure 2 below shows the GDP trends over the years from 2000 to 2009.

GDP Trends 2000-2009

The Zimbabwean government still has enormous challenges ahead; it must convince investors that hyperinflationary policies will not be resurrected, demands for higher wages from civil servants must be balanced against miniscule government revenues, and the banking sector requires urgent rebuilding. The government is nonetheless moving forward on all fronts, and if the current policy trajectory continues, the economy could double in size within eight years.

The business environment is more fluid than usual, as business practice under the unity government is still uncertain. Liberalising policies have been introduced, a range of taxes are under review, and exchange rate risks have disappeared.

Risk Analysis

There are significant downside risks to the economic outlook:

Political Risk

Political disagreements among coalition partners may emerge, potentially resulting in policy reversals. The current government is however laying the groundwork that will make such moves increasingly difficult.

Economic Risk

-Budget revenue and foreign financing shortfalls could lead to a large compression in expenditure, which, in turn, may trigger social unrest.
- If wages exceeded levels justified by the economy’s productivity, competitiveness could suffer, resulting in output contraction and higher unemployment.
- The banking system, which has become more fragile because of hyperinflation, is subject to new risks under the multi-currency system. If these risks were not addressed in a timely manner, the intermediation capacity of the banking system would not improve and growth would suffer.
- If projected external private and official inflows, including financing to close the external gap, did not materialize, under the virtually complete dollarization, the resulting liquidity squeeze could lead to deflation.
-Significant capacity constraints pose a high risk to the implementation of the Short Term Emergency Recovery Program (“STERP”).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Power and Success

Successful people command power in one way or the other. Power is the ability to get things done - your way. You get things done by giving direct orders to others, sometimes by making a suggestion or even asking for a favour. The end results (if you have power) will always be such that people act in a manner that you derive a benefit from their actions. Success is about getting what you want or desire. If you manage to get 75% of the things you want, to me you are successful.

There are various forms of power. Many authors and scholars have written books and produced papers about different manifestations of power. Those that are mentioned often by many authors are coercive, reward, legitimate, referent and expert power. Those that appeal to me are the "good ones" namely reward, referent and expert power. In my opinion successful people possesses at least two of these "good" forms of power.

For example reward power will have something to do with paying salaries, giving due recognition and praises to others and perhaps loving others unconditionally. Referent power on the other hand will have something to do with charisma, ability to magnetise and attract people. When you have referent power, you will always manage to pull crowds and turn heads. Sometimes products or services will be designed around you. Many politians, artist, business people and celebrities have referent power.

People who possesses expert power are those who have deeper knowledge or insights about a specific subject than average man and woman. Those with expert power are respected for their knowledge. They sometimes become legends.

Coercive power on the hand has something to do with forcing or coercing others to do as you want irrespective of their feelings or convictions. When you rule by fear and submission, you are a coercive leader. Typical examples will be dictators and gang leaders.

Legitimate power is the power that comes with a rank. For example police officers, military personnel, state president, husband or wife all have certain rights and privileges based on the power bestowed on them. You can say that legitimate power is a legislated power.

One can have power in many ways. You have power over your employees because you pay their salaries. Being a successful business owner or rising to the top office in an organisation is very fulfilling to others. In this way they get the respect and recognition they deserve. The bigger the organisation or the company they own, the more the power they command.

If you are an expert in a specific field, it is because you know the best way to handle matters. Your are in the best position to use your expert status to command respect and power. You have the power set your own market price and choose who you associate with. Many people who are successful in their careers are leveraging on their unique knowledge of what they do for a living.

If you have credit cards, you can go into a store, hotel or restaurant in any city and order whatever you wish. This kind power, if utilised effectively can enhance you success immensely. Imagine dinning in the best restaurants along side the rich and powerful. (Notwithstanding, be careful when using your credit card because credit cards are known to be debt traps).

Then you are successful and powerful in politics, people will give you their votes, hoping that you will work and succeed in getting the government to serve them in their area.

There is also power that is derived from being talented, charming and capable; of being up-to-date and knowledgeable. With this power people will know that when they let you handle things for them or listen to your advice, they will come out ahead. There are many people that are paid top dollars to talk and motivate others. Many former CEO's and other great personalities are paid more money per hour by companies to motivate staff than what many of us get per month. How is that for power and success?

In fact if you want a dose of knowledge and insightful wisdom from some of the sharpest brains in "getting things done" you have to get yourself a 460 page e-book called The Top 101 Experts That Help Us Improve Our Lives. This is a remarkable book that is bound to change your approach to life forever.

Coming back to our topic, well we have one more thing to say; this concerns the aspect of power that have something to do with competition.

If the entire world was fair and equal, there would be no need for the upper hand. But of course the world is not like that. This implies that in a competitive situation you cannot merely settle for the generosity of your competition. You must keep your eyes wide open and indeed all your faculties in their most acute and sharpest alert mode. Be open for any clue or tips that will tip the scale in your favour. When the scale has tipped to your side, take what is duly yours, nothing more - nothing less. Get what you deserve and get it fairly. If you go all out to destroy your competition or your enemies, you create another bigger enemy - yourself.

There has been lot of prestige attached to destroying competition but history tells that those that follow this silly advice end up attracting more competition. This had to do with the Law of Attraction and signals from your subconscious mind. The truth is the world respect those that are fair and firm. Always take what you deserve and leave the rest; you will be successful and you will command respect and power even from your arch-enemy.

Women in Mining

With the help from Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), the South African Women in Mining Association (SAWIMA) was established in 1999 to support women entrepreneurs in the mining industry. It was later launched in December of the same year by the then Minister of Minerals and Energy, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Scope of SAWIMA has been broaden to assist companies owned and/or managed by women to obtain mineral rights, to empower women with skills in order to manage their mining companies better and to promote women empowerment in the mining sector.

To advance the course of women in mining, SAWIMA lobbies the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and other government bodies on issues pertaining to development of women in mining, collaborates with MQA in the provision of appropriate training programmes for women in mining and work in partnership with organisations such as Technology for Women in Business (TWIB) and other continental bodies to help women in general.

The course of SAWIMA is closely linked to the provisions of the 2004 South African mining charter which requires mining companies, among other things, to ensure “higher levels of inclusiveness and participation of women” in the mining sector. Furthermore the charter set a baseline target of 10% participation of women in mining by 2009.

Historically mining has been dominated by men, both locally and globally. This can partially be attributed to dangerous conditions associated with mining, harsh and strenuous activities associated with winning of minerals and possibly our patriarchal tendencies.

To ensure proper representation of women across South Africa, SAWIMA has established branches in all nine provinces. Activities of the association are coordinated by board members under the leadership of Alice Phatudi, the current chairperson of SAWIMA. Board members are the chairpersons of provincial branches, representatives of DME and individuals from corporate.

The head office of the association is in Gauteng Province.
In 2003 SAWIMA registered South African Women in Mining Investment Holdings Pty Ltd (SAWIMIH), an investment arm of the association. SAWIMIH is a broad based economic vehicle and is largely owned by SAWIMA members. It is envisaged that through SAWIMIH, members of SAWIMA will be able to participate and benefit from economic growth in the mining sector by taking ownership or equity in companies within the sector.

Majority of SAWIMIH management are women and its board consists of successful women in their own respect. Among the board members is Dr. Nellie Mutemeri, a geologist by background with experience stretching beyond the borders of African continent. Dr. Mutemeri heads the investment committee of SAWIMIH. Outside SAWIMIH she was the Manager of Small Scale Mining at Mintek.

To correct historical past is not an easy feat as attested by the current Minister of Minerals and Energy, Buyelwa Sonjica. In October 2007 during the 4th Annual General Meeting of SAWIMA, the Minister said, "the empowerment of women in the industry is a bit slower than I expected, but what is important is that women are finally involved in the industry and benefiting from procurement." This statement was made roughly two years before the end of 10% baseline participation of women in mining as stipulated by the mining charter.

One of the identifiable impediments against significant participation of women in mining is access to funds for pre-feasibility studies. This type of funds is regarded as a high risk investment by financiers. To overcome this obstacle the DME has established a fund to assist women with pre-feasibility studies. However the fund at this stage depends on the generosity of third parties.

Habits of Success

  1. Successful people love and care for the others. Their actions are aimed at aiding and developing fellow human beings but do not try to be the answer to all ills in the world.

  2. Successful people learn and grow constantly. They associate and learn from other successful people. They have a wealth of self-improvement material from which to refer from time to time. On the other hand they also learn from unsuccessful people because in failure there is lesson to be learned.

  3. Successful people make decisions daily. They are quick to make decisions and take time to change them because they have learned to trust their instincts. Unsuccessful people on the other hand are indecisive and when they do make decisions, they change them quickly due to lack of confidence in their decision making capabilities.

  4. Successful people feel good about “this moment”. They say “today is a perfect day”. They know that yesterday is gone, today is a present and through prayer, tomorrow will even be better. They will go out into the world to make their mark for others to learn and benefit.

  5. Successful people concentrate on productive activities because they know what is important to them. They do not waste time on unproductive and trivial issues. Life is much more important to be squandered on time-wasters

  6. Successful people nurture and grow their personality because they do not agree with those that say personality and traits are inherited from birth. They know that leaders are not born but sculpture themselves into leadership positions. They are constantly working on their people, communication and relationship skills.

  7. Successful people just do it. Life is fun that way. They have heard and seen the effects of "analysis paralysis".

  8. Successful people manage their stress by:

  • Fully focusing on what they do; they loathe distractions.

  • Planning in details before hand. They acknowledge the imperfection in their plans but get comfort in the clarity they bring.

  • Avoiding doing too much. They delegate well and outsource their weak areas but assume overall responsibility all the time.

  • Arranging their schedule to have enough time to relax and enjoy life with family and friends.

  • Avoiding being too perfect, in fact they focus on being effective rather than being perfectionist because they know that this world is not a perfect world but it accommodates optimised solutions.

  • Being happy about success, they celebrate success and reward themselves well.

  • Not being unnecessary frightened by future because they know that there are good times and bad times in life and we all are going to go through them at any given point in our lives.

  1. Successful people live a dream. They allow themselves to dream because they know that inspirations comes from dreams.

  1. Successful people take care of their bodies by:

  • Eating healthy

  • Exercising regularly

  • Having enough sleep

  • Laughing regularly

  • Drinking enough water

  1. Successful people give 110% effort because they understand the relationship between input and output. They are efficient on the input side and maximise the output to their benefit and humanity as well.

  2. Successful people tolerate differing opinions because they know they can learn from other people with differing opinions and perspectives.

Top 7 Investment Opportunities For Retail Investors

In the current environment where global inflation is rising and simultaneously eroding investor confidence, there are still few avenues where investors can invest and reap the benefits in the long term. Investment opportunities explained below are suitable for investors who are looking for value in medium to long term. Be warned though that all investments carry certain amount of risk and before investing your hard earned money, you should seek the advice of a qualified financial advisor or planner registered with Financial Services Board (FSB).

The following are the top seven investment opportunities for retail investors:

Stocks/Equity/Shares - This investment vehicle is known to give very high returns but you need proper training to invest in tradable stocks on the stock market. You can either invest based on your direct research of the market or you can subscribe to the services of a research company that provides proper analysis of tradable stocks. There are many companies in the market that provide such services. There are even websites that give investment tips online but one thing for sure – do not accept free investment tips. Have you ever seen a free professional service!

Mutual Funds - You may want to invest part of your money in the stock market through mutual funds or unit trusts. Mutual funds are less risky proposition for people who want to invest in stock market but do not know how to trade. Go for 50:50 mix of dividend and growth scheme. Currently mutual funds are priced attractively and there are plenty of good investment opportunities. Look for two to three years timeframe for reasonable returns. You may also look for closed ended tax saver or tax benefit schemes in which your money will be locked for three or more years.

Land - With appropriate bank loan or cash payment from your savings or investment portfolio you look can into buying land near developing areas such as airports or commercial centres. This investment can give you high level of returns in the long term. The only problem with land is that it needs to be protected well from encroachment and false suitors. One thing to remember is that lands far from major cities are cheap but yield very little growth and are difficult to maintain and protect.

Under-constructed units from reputable developers – With a loan from your bank, you can invest in a good three or four bedroom unit which is under construction or chosen from a plan of a reputable developer with a stable business. By the time the unit is ready for occupation, normally the price would have appreciated and you can make a good return on the money you borrowed from the bank. Here the emphasis is a reputable developer with good track record, prime location with potential to appeal to many people and good quality units. These aspects will firstly ensure successful completion of the development and secondly appreciation in value once construction is completed. Caution: make sure that you can service you bank loan or bond while still looking for a prospective buyer.

Gold and Silver – Physical gold and silver (especially gold) are traditionally seen as safe havens and preservers of wealth especially in times of uncertainty or rampant inflation. The only problem with physical gold and silver is storage or security. You will have to find a suitable place to protect them from unwelcomed scoundrels.

Bank Fixed Deposit - If you want a highly secure investment vehicle then go for age old bank fixed deposits. With bank fixed deposit, your initial investment is secure but the growth thereof will hardly beat inflation. Also one should not deposit all the money in one bank but diversify across at least three banks to minimise the solvency risk although you can do very little if bank contagion ever occurs.

Government Infrastructure Bonds - This can be a good investment with good future returns more so when looking at government spending on infrastructure, developmental agenda of Eskom and infrastructural developments of metropolitans such as City of Johannesburg. You may also seek the advice of a FSB registered and reputable financial advisor with respect to schemes that are linked to infrastructural bonds or socially responsible investment (SRI) funds.

About the original author:

Arth Sutra provides NSE BSE Trading Tips and Trading Recommendations for Australian and US Stock Markets. Visit us for 4 week Free trial for NSE BSE Stock Tips. Also subscribe to our FREE Weekly Global Market Analysis newsletter for in-depth analysis of stock markets across the globe. Visit Indian Share Market Tips for more information.

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Zimbabwean Platinum Mines

Article by Greg McCoach

Platinum is extremely rare, occurring at only 0.003 parts per billion in the Earth's crust. This makes it the most precious of all precious metals about 30 times rarer than gold. In fact, it's so rare that if all the platinum in the world was poured into one Olympic-size swimming pool it would scarcely be deep enough to cover your ankles.

Unlike most other commodity metals, which are found commonly throughout the world, major platinum deposits are limited to two main areas: Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former USSR).

South Africa is by far the most prominent platinum-rich regions in the world. The country accounts for approximately 80% of the world's total annual platinum production and contains an estimated 88% of the world's platinum reserves, with a proved and probable reserve of 6,223 tons, or 223 million ounces.

There are other platinum deposits throughout Africa, including in Zimbabwe, where a significant potential source of platinum has been well-known for several decades, but it isn't until now that platinum mining companies are starting to make real progress.

Platinum Mining Companies: Tapping Into the Great Dyke

The Great Dyke is a 2.6 billion-year-old geological feature that runs right through the heart of Zimbabwe for about 550 kilometers in a north-south direction.

The geologist and explorer Dr. Carl Mauch first recorded the Great Dyke in 1867, but it wasn't until the early 20th century that the presence of platinum, and other minerals, was discovered.

Early attempts at mining the platinum out of the ground were generally unsuccessful, and it has only been relatively recently that platinum production has reached significant levels.

Zimbabwe Platinum Mines

Zimbabwe's oldest platinum operation is the Mimosa mine, located in the southern part of the Great Dyke on the Wedza geological complex. Ownership of the mine is currently split 50/50 between Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (JNB: IMP, OTCBB: IMPUY) and Aquarius Platinum Ltd. (ASX: AQP, LON: AQP, OTCBB: AQPBF, JNB: AQP).

Platinum mining at the Mimosa complex has a long history. The deposit was exploited briefly in the 1920s, and trial mining was undertaken by Union Carbide Zimbabwe (private) between 1966 and 1975.

Zimasco Ltd. (a private ferrochrome mining and smelting company) took over the Mimosa operations in 1992. The pilot plant was refurbished, and mining recommenced in 1994, gradually building up to a rate of just under 30,000 tonnes of ore per month. Although small, the operation was very successful, and began to attract the attention of the South African platinum producers.

A proposed acquisition of the complex by Anglo American Plc (NASDAQ: AAUK, LON: AAL, NAM: ANM, JNB: AGL) collapsed in 2000. The following year Impala Platinum acquired a 35% stake in the mine. In 2002 Impala took a further 15% with Aquarius Platinum taking the remaining 50% of the company.

Since 2002, output at Mimosa has gradually been expanded, and the mine, which is among the lowest-cost platinum producers in the world, extracts around 85,000 ounces of platinum annually.

During the early 1990s, a second mine, the Hartley Platinum project, was developed by a joint venture between the Australian companies BHP Billiton Ltd. (NYSE: BHP, ASX: BHP, LON: BLT, JNB: BIL) and Delta Gold Ltd (now a part of Zimplats). It opened in 1995, but following a string of geological and metallurgical problems, underground operations were suspended in June 1999.

BHP's interest in Hartley Platinum was sold to Zimplats Holdings Ltd. (ASX: ZIM), a spin-off of Delta Gold's platinum assets, which began to develop a new open-cast mine further south, at Ngezi. Operations began in 2001, following the acquisition of a share of the project by Impala Platinum and the South African bank Absa Bank Ltd. Over the next two years, Impala increased its holding in Zimplats, and by June 2006 it held 86.9% of the company.

In 2006, Ngezi produced about 90,000 ounces of platinum, from an open pit and from a newly-developed underground section. Impala now plans to increase production to over 150,000 ounces of platinum per annum, which will involved the construction of two new underground sections and will cost an estimated US$258 million.

A third platinum mine, Anglo American's Unki project, is expected to begin producing 58,000 ounces per year of refined platinum by 2010. Anglo American recently said that they plan to invest $400 million to build the mine despite pressure from the British government to withdraw from the country.

Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has been condemned over violence against the political opposition ahead of the second round of presidential elections. The $400 million investment would be the largest foreign investment in Zimbabwe ever.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

T-Mobile and Orange in UK merger

T-Mobile and Orange in UK merger

An Orange and T-Mobile shop in Liverpool
If completed, shop closures and job losses are seen as inevitable

T-Mobile and Orange plan to merge their UK businesses, creating a mobile phone giant with 28.4 million customers.

If completed, a deal between Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile and Orange owner France Telecom would see a firm with sales of 9.4bn euros (£8.2bn; $13.5bn).

It would be the UK's largest provider, overtaking Telefonica's O2, with about 37% of the mobile market.

It is the second large corporate action in two days, after Kraft Food's £10.2bn takeover proposal for Cadbury.

Orange CEO Tom Alexander: The move means 'better value and better coverage'

Orange and T-Mobile said their deal - due to be signed by November - would "bring substantial benefits to UK customers", and promised expanded network coverage, better network quality and improved customer services.

However, it is likely that competition authorities in the UK and EU will probe the deal.

'Efficiencies'

Both brands would remain separate for the first 18 months after the deal was completed while branding options were reviewed.

ANALYSIS
Simon Atkinson, Business reporter, BBC News

This deal - if it goes ahead - will shake up the UK mobile market.

Both brands would stay for a while - but the Orange name is tipped to remain long-term.

Being market leader would give it clout when it came to the handsets available. Neither Orange or T-Mobile offer "must have" phones such as the iPhone and Blackberry Storm - but this could change.

And the firms promise customers will get better network coverage - and there's potential for investing in better, faster 3G networks and data access through mobiles.

But not everyone will be happy. The range of tariffs offered by the two companies is likely to be scaled back.

Meanwhile, just three major players in the UK mobile market would mean less consumer choice.

Which? surveys suggest Orange and T-Mobile have worse customer service than their rivals - and meshing company databases together will bring another challenge.

Orange chief executive Tom Alexander would lead the new company, with T-Mobile's UK boss Richard Moat as chief operating officer.

Orange employs 12,500 people in the UK, while T-Mobile has UK workforce of 6,500.

A spokeswoman confirmed there would be "efficiencies" that could be made across both businesses - but said it was too early to give details of any impact on staff.

Integrating the businesses would cost between £600m and £800m, the firms said. This bill would include decommissioning mobile phone masts, cutting back the network of stores and streamlining other operations. Over time, savings should reach about £3.5bn, they added.

Pricey renewal

UK mobile phone operators would welcome consolidation in the sector said lawyer Chris Watson, of CMS McKenna, adding firms saw the current levels of competition as "ruinous" because of how low they had to keep prices to win customers.

There was very little prospect of the deal being approved by regulators without some alterations, he added, and said "alarm bells will be ringing" about price increases.

Customers on existing contracts would not see their tariffs changed, he said.

"But when your contract comes up for renewal you may well find the price is more expensive."

Mobile phone analyst Nigel Hawkins told the BBC that it was not unprecedented for a firm to have more than a third of a European country's mobile phone market.

"If the deal goes ahead, then this merged firm, along with O2 and Vodafone will have more than 90% of the UK market and there will be concern that there remains plenty of competition and that this position is not abused."

Avoiding writedowns

Deutsche Telekom said earlier this year that it was considering its options for its UK business - which has struggled to win customers in the highly competitive market - which sees five operators and several smaller players compete.

DEAL IN NUMBERS
28.4m customers
37% UK market share
£8.2bn sales (in 2008)
Source: Deutsche Telekom

Observers say that a joint venture would allow the German firm to avoid the write downs it could face if forced to sell T-Mobile UK for less than it hoped.

Meanwhile, for France Telecom, the deal is a way to strengthen its position in the UK market without paying cash or taking on vastly more debt.

T-Mobile is currently the fourth-largest mobile operator in the UK, with a 15% share of the market. O2 has a 27% share, followed by Vodafone (25%) and Orange (22%).

Sunday, September 6, 2009