Anglo American Corporation, the South African mining giant, yesterday signalled its interest in Lonrho's mining interests by paying pounds 91m for Tiny Rowland's 5.85 per cent stake in the mining to hotels conglomerate.
Anglo has also been given first refusal for 18 months of the 18.5 per cent holding owned by Lonrho chief executive Dieter Bock. If granted, this would give it effectively a controlling stake when Lonrho's mining interests are demerged later this year.
The deal, at 200.36p a share, sent Lonrho's shares 8p higher at 202p yesterday. It marks possibly the final bow for Tiny Rowland from the group he led in combative style for 33 years before the arrival of Mr Bock in 1992. The stake bought by Anglo represents the bulk of his remaining holding in Lonrho, which was sold to Mr Bock last Thursday under a put and call option. Mr Bock's company, Laerstate BV, passed the holding on to Anglo at the same price at which Mr Rowland exercised his put option.
Anglo has committed itself not to make a general offer for Lonrho ahead of the demerger. Thereafter, it could swap its stake in the non-mining side for Mr Bock's shares in the mining business. Analysts said the deal puts Anglo in a strong position to shut out other potential buyers of the Lonrho assets, including American Barrick Resources and Gencor.