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Anglo-American banks on direct move to FTSE 100

ANGLO-AMERICAN, the South African mining conglomerate, expects to move straight into the FTSE 100 index at around number 35 when it completes its restructuring and moves its listing from Joburg to London next month.

Inevitably it will attract investment both from sector and share trackers, and as no new shares will be offered there should be strong demand for the shares.

Almost 40 per cent of the restructured company will be held by de Beers, which has indicated it has no intention of reducing its holding.

The founding Oppenheimer family holds a further 6 per cent, tracker funds could require a further 8 to 10 per cent, and international investors are also likely to be net buyers once the company is reclassified from an emerging market to a European market stock.

The switch is also taking place close to the bottom of the commodity cycle. Metal prices have not yet started to turn up, gold is depressed, and there is still excess capacity in the copper market. But in recent weeks hopes of avoiding a worldwide recession have risen perceptibly.

There are signs of returning confidence in East Asian economies that are big consumers of raw materials, and the shares of the two other major mining conglomerates, Rio Tinto and Billiton have surged.

In the course of the move Anglo-American will swap new shares for old on a one-for-one basis and make a one-for-two share offer for the shares in Minorco, the Luxembourg-based mining investment group not already held, and reorganise its other interests.

The restructured company will include large stakes in de Beers, Amplats and AngloGold and seven wholly-owned divisions covering base metals, industrial minerals, ferrous metals, coal, forestry products, industrial holdings and financial services.

A third of its profits come from precious metals, and about 65 per cent of the assets will still be in South Africa. However, most of the major capital investments over the next five years will be in base metals around the world.

The company starts almost debt-free but it will be in a position to raise finance for future expansion much more cheaply as a London company, the chairman and chief executive Julian Ogilvy Thompson said yesterday. The new centralised management structure will also force the operating divisions to compete directly for development finance.

The shares will be heavyweight. Pro-forma earnings were 180p a share last year and analysts in South Africa are forecasting a 20 per cent improvement this year.

Analysts in London expect Anglo-American shares to start at a substantial discount to Rio Tinto, which is better known and less exposed to the stagnant gold mining business and is currently trading on just over 20-times 1998 earnings and 22-times forward earnings.

But Anglo-American could quite quickly achieve the same rating as Billiton, which has taken two years to build up support among UK investors. Yesterday it was trading on 20- times forward earnings

In Joburg existing Anglo American Corporation shares fell yesterday on profit-taking, but they rallied to close at 275 rand, about pounds 28.20 at the current rate of exchange.