De Beers sells large stake in mining unit to black-led firm

De Beers sells 26 percent equity interest of De Beers Consolidated Mines, its South African mining unit, to a newly formed black-owned company for about $565 million. The company made the announcement Tuesday at its Johannesburg headquarters.

The new firm, Ponahalo, will be split evenly between De Beers South African employees and pensioners and by a black-led investment firm, Ponahalo Investment Holdings. Shareholders in the new firm also include women’s groups, disabled groups, and community organizations.

The chairman of the new company is Manne Dipico (18 percent ownership), who will also serve as deputy chairman DBCM. Other major shareholders include Peotona Capital Ltd, an investment company owned by a group of women (16 percent), Barend Petersen (13 percent), and Moss Mashishi (8 percent). Forty-five percent of the holding company will be owned by trusts for disadvantaged women, people with disabilities, and communities around DBCM mines.

De Beers said that one of the major goals in forming this new company is allow all segments of South African society to benefit and to take part in the ownership of this endeavor.

The shareholders in Ponahalo,” said De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, “represent the broadest possible cross-section of South African society, both men and women, from business leaders and the urban skilled, to people with disabilities and the rural poor. They include the communities around De Beers’ mines and the people—black and white—who work or have worked in those mines and elsewhere for DBCM. They will include key HDSA De Beers employees and a new generation of HDSA (historically disadvantaged South Africans) entrepreneurs. Our approach therefore … is to spread the benefits of empowerment as widely as possible and, at the same time, both to reward those who made De Beers what it is today and incentivise those who will steer this company and South Africa’s economy in the future.”

De Beers said the transaction immediately complies with the terms of the mining charter, which sets minimum black ownership quotas that must be met by 2009 and actually meets the targets of the charter set for 2014.

“That effect will be to meet and indeed exceed the Government’s black economic empowerment requirements as set down in the Mining Charter,” Oppenheimer said. “It will also achieve the goal which we set ourselves: to create a truly non-racial company to reflect the non-racial ideals of the government and indeed of all citizens of this still new South Africa.”

Oppenheimer added, “I recognize and some of you may argue, it has been quite a long time coming; not because we were reluctant to do it, but because we were determined to do it well, to ensure that our empowerment strategy would, to use a well-known phrase, empower the many not the few and so be a source of good for the greatest number, including and especially those who need it most.”

De Beers said the sale will of the 26 percent stake to Ponahalo will be financed by equity from some shareholders, third-party financing and vendor financing from De Beers. Ponahalo will expand its business by making investments outside of the De Beers with approximately $1.5 million it will receive from the mining giant each year.