Anaconda turns

WHEN Anaconda Nickel paid out its creditors last week, managing director and chief executive officer Peter Johnston was understandably keen to spell out the company’s turnaround.

Faced with crippling debt, a nickel cobalt processing facility with significant technical difficulties, poor commodity prices and ongoing litigation, there have been plenty of times in the past 18 months when management, shareholders and employees stared at defeat. Some of these have not survived the journey, but this week Anaconda is virtually debt-free, has $100 million in the bank, is nearing the end of the litigation process, and has seen an unsolicited takeover bid turn in its favour.

“For the first time we can operate independently – not at the behest of bondholders,” Mr Johnston said.

The major focus will now turn to the Murrin Murrin processing plant. A program to rectify design and construction faults is 50 per cent complete, and the high-pressure acid leach facility may reach design capacity by year’s end.

Anaconda has secured 60 per cent of the Murrin Murrin project at a time when there is renewed optimism in the global nickel market.

At the end of a $323 million 14-for-1 rights issue and almost at the close of the MatlinPatterson Global Opportunities bid, Anaconda was earlier this week cashed up, seemingly not under the control of, or at the mercy of, anyone, and confident of its future.

Glencore International has retained its premier holding in Anaconda – now at 47 per cent – MP Global has 36 per cent, and the remaining 17 per cent is in the hands of several thousand shareholders.

Former number two top shareholder Anglo American sold out to MP Global and the company’s two board representatives resigned. No new directors have been appointed in their place.

Anaconda has traded between 10 and 12 cents since paying its creditors.

-Susan Bower

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