Parker to shake up Anglo with new non-execs

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The Independent Online

Sir John Parker, the chairman of Anglo American, is looking to shake up the board of the mining giant by appointing new non-executive directors.

Sir John, who took over as Anglo's chairman at the beginning of the month, confirmed last week that one of his many priorities is to "freshen up" the board, which currently has nine non-executive directors and two executives. Headhunters have been appointed and the search is under way.

The Anglo board will also review all its business interests to see which non-core activities it should look to sell to tighten up the company. Tarmac, the aggregates-to-construction-materials business, is one of the most likely to go. "Tarmac is one which may be sold but this will obviously depend on the right market conditions," said Sir John.

Following the merger proposal from mining rival Xstrata, Sir John has been on a whistlestop tour visiting as many of Anglo's shareholders as possible, including some in South Africa. So far, he said, shareholders have been supportive of the board's view that Xstrata's nil-premium, "merger of equals" offer does not represent a "value proposition" and will be resisted.

Sir John – who has given wholehearted support to Cynthia Carroll, Anglo's chief executive, currently under fire from investors – has also met with Anglo's top directors and engineers in South Africa and held meetings with the South African Minister for Mines to discuss the group's interests there. He has made it plain that he will back Ms Carroll, who during interim results last month insisted the group was on track for $1bn of cost savings by the end of the year, and that another $2bn of cuts are targeted by 2011. Xstrata claims a further $1bn of annual cost savings could be made, but Anglo has refused to engage with Xstrata, arguing that returns will improve following its own cost-cutting exercise.

Many City investors who were unhappy about Anglo's performance are willing to listen to Sir John. "Parker is as tough-nosed as you can get. If anybody can get Anglo back on its feet and fight off Xstrata then he can," said one shareholder. Anglo shares rose 3.6 per cent on Friday to 1984p, as mining stocks rose with the FTSE.

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