* Says still in talks with some parties on platinum sale
* Minas Rio iron project a drag on shares-chairman
* Minas Rio currently breaking even after capital-CEO (Adds CEO, chairman comments)
By Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - Anglo American favours a listing of some South African platinum mines as the most likely route to divesting those assets, the mining group’s chief executive said on Friday.
Platinum has been a problem for London and Johannesburg-listed Anglo American for some time, due to recurrent strikes and stubbornly weak prices.
Anglo American Platinum has said that it would divest several assets, including some in Rustenburg, which was at the centre of a five-month strike last year. This is part of a plan to switch to more mechanised mining.
“We are still in negotiations with some parties regarding a potential trade sale but from our point of view, at this stage, the preferred option is an IPO,” chief executive Mark Cutifani said at the company’s annual general meeting, referring to a stock market listing.
Anglo’s sale price expectations are struggling to meet the offers from the potential buyers, according to sources familiar with the process.
South African precious metals mining firms Sibanye Gold and Northam Platinum as well as community-owned firm Baroka Platinum are among the parties which have shown interest in buying some of these assets.
Talks between Amplats and Baroka are ongoing, a source familiar with the matter said.
Chairman John Barker, responding to a shareholder question at the meeting about the company’s weak share price performance versus peers, said the share performance had been disappointing and blamed this, at least in part, on the costly Minas Rio iron ore project in Brazil.
“I think we have had a lot of headwinds in a number of areas. Without doubt Minas Rio has been a huge drag on the company’s balance sheet, a huge drag on the share price until it can show a clean yield,” Barker said.
After a slump in iron ore price, Anglo took a $3.5 billion impairment earlier this year on Minas Rio, which started exporting some iron ore in late 2014.
The project, which will cost about $8.4 billion, has been plagued by delays and cost overruns since Anglo bought it in 2007-2008 for about $5.5 billion.
“Today with the currency moving in our favour and some operational improvements we are around break even. In the next 12 months the team has set some aggressive targets to try and create some space (to come down to) the low $40s,” Cutifani said.
Due to its high quality, Minas Rio’s iron ore fetches a premium of about $5-8 dollar to the iron ore benchmark, which is currently at around $50 per tonne.
$1 = 12.1904 rand Additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Pratima Desai; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Jane Merriman