Anglo to go ahead with £4bn float of paper business Mondi

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The mining giant Anglo American is to spin off its Mondi paper and packing business, which will float as a separate company in London by early next year.

Mondi, which may command a value of around £4bn, would win a place among the constituents of the FTSE 100 index of leading companies.

Anglo has still not ruled out a sale and revealed that Mondi has attracted a stream of interest from potential buyers.

The world's third-biggest miner is disposing of peripheral businesses to focus on coal, iron, precious metals and gem mining.

Anglo is to sell part of its 51 per cent stake in the South African gold producer AngloGold Ashanti, but plans to remain a significant shareholder.

The company also reassured investors that the sale of its 79 per cent stake in South Africa's Highveld Steel is moving along nicely after several approaches. That should net Anglo around $713m (£409m).

The early stages of a root-and-branch review of its concrete paving business, Tarmac, had identified operations here, in Germany and in Hong Kong that will now be sold.

Meanwhile, Anglo became the latest miner to unveil record annual earnings on the back of eye-watering commodity prices. Underlying earnings surged 39 per cent to $3.7bn in 2005, after $730m of cost savings. That allows for the return of $1.5bn to shareholders this year, $500m more than planned.

Tony Trahar, Anglo's chief executive, said: "The outlook for the global economy is encouraging, with leading indicators showing signs of continuing global growth and strong underlying demand for the group's products.

"If prices and demand continue at or near current levels, the group should have another strong year."

The extra cash will be returned to shareholders in the form of a special dividend of 33 cents per Anglo share on May 3. A final dividend of 62 cents is 22 per cent higher than in 2004.

Nick Hatch, an analyst at Investec, said: "The restructuring is pretty much in line with recent market rumours. The earnings are broadly in line. The capital management programme is slightly higher than the company promised before, which is a plus, but I think they probably could have returned more."

The increased return of capital and bumper earnings spurred Anglo shares 57 to 2,199p.