The business on...Ian Farmer, Chief executive, Lonmin


So why's he in the news?


Well Mr Farmer, a South African national, is having some "local difficulties" doing business in that country.

The authorities have stopped him from selling nickel, copper and chrome, which are all rather profitable by-products produced from Lonmin's main business (mining platinum). It's going to cost the company the small matter of $80m (£50m) a year. Mr Farmer is going to appeal but that didn't stop the shares taking a bath yesterday: they closed down 83p at 1557p in London.

Ouch.

Quite. It's not a killer, but it is bad news for Lonmin and is indicative of an increasingly assertive attitude by the South Africans towards their mining assets, which has got mining companies skittish. Mr Farmer, who also has a British passport, is at least able to work his lobbying magic on the ground in Johannesburg. He moved the company's HQ out there, along with himself, financing his house purchase by selling shares in, erm, Lonmin.

Isn't that a bit naughty?

Well, let's be fair about this, most executives like to soak their shareholders for the cash when they're relocating. Mr Farmer at least used his own shares to finance his house buy, so it's a bit harsh to criticise him. The 47-year-old is a 22-year veteran of the company, which shows commitment, not least given that it has had more than a few rocky spells during that time.

What's his background?

Accountancy, but he's done strategy at the company too. He was drafted in to steady the ship after Xstrata walked away from a takeover bid. leaving the operation looking, well, rather exposed. Xstrata still holds a mine full of shares. Mr Farmer had been making efforts to turn things around. Until, that is, the South African authorities intervened.

Any other business?

Well, he is also director of the International Platinum Association (which is probably not that surprising) along with Incwala Resources (Pty) Limited, which holds a minority interest in Lonmin's South African operating subsidiaries.

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