Veteran Sir John Parker to lead Anglo American

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Sir John Parker will take over as chairman of Anglo American when Sir Mark Moody-Stuart steps down in August, a move that aims to strengthen the miner's defence against pressure from rejected suitor Xstrata.

Sir John is a veteran industrialist, well-known to investors in both the UK and South Africa, where Anglo is jointly listed. He has sat on 12 boards and chaired eight of them over the past 25 years, and is currently the chairman of National Grid and the joint chairman of the Mondi Group in South Africa, with Cyril Ramaphosa.

Sir John stands by the Anglo board's rejection of Xstrata's nil-premium merger proposal last month. Xstrata says the tie-up could save $1bn (£618m) per year, but Anglo slammed the plans as unattractive for its shareholders and rejected the estimates on synergies as inferior to its own $2bn cost-cutting programme.

The group also says a merger with Xstrata would weaken its strategic position by diluting its strong role in high-performing platinum, iron ore and diamond markets with exposure to nickel and zinc. Progress with Anglo's resistant shareholders is believed to hinge on Xstrata's payment of a premium, but so far no such offer has been forthcoming.

Sir John said: "Anglo American has many great strengths, including a portfolio of high-quality mining assets, an impressive growth profile, substantial and well-advanced efficiency programmes and a unique position in precious commodities. Anglo has undergone a major transformation in recent years and I look forward to my new role, leading the board through the next stage of the company's development."

The appointment could generate controversy in South Africa, where the government was pushing for the appointment of Mr Ramaphosa or another black South African.

Sir Mark is leaving the Anglo board after seven years as chairman. Cynthia Carroll, the Anglo chief executive, said: "Sir Mark Moody-Stuart has led the group through a period of significant change, introducing a strong stakeholder focus and reinforcing our position as a modern and responsible mining company."