Anglo American To Discuss Future Of Boss
The board of Anglo American, the FTSE 100 mining group, will this week discuss demands to replace its chief executive amid growing shareholder concern over her leadership.
I have learned that Anglo American directors will consider issues including investor feedback about Cynthia Carroll at a board meeting in Brazil which begins on Tuesday.
The company has been under pressure in recent months to accelerate succession planning amid growing unrest over the performance of Ms Carroll, who has served as its chief executive since 2007.
This weekend, a number of senior City sources said that plans for Ms Carroll to step down could be announced within a matter of weeks. A person close to Anglo insisted that the board meeting was routine and that a wide range of issues would be on the agenda.
Ms Carroll is being targeted by institutions unhappy with the company's strategy, falling profitability and share price, and repeated delays to production from Minas Rio, an iron ore project that is among the company's most important growth prospects but which is now years behind schedule.
Some investors are also annoyed about the handling of a settlement in August with the Chilean government over a copper asset, although it was broadly seen as a decent compromise deal.
Sir John Parker, the respected industrialist who has chaired Anglo since being brought in to defend it against a hostile takeover bid from Xstrata in 2009, has had extensive discussions with shareholders in recent months.
"He appears to have got the message," one institutional investor told me this weekend. "There have been signals from the company that there will be change at the top - and soon."
Some investors have floated the idea of parachuting in Alex Vanselow, the former chief financial officer of BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining group, to replace Ms Carroll. A person close to Anglo said such an idea was "not currently being considered".
Like other miners with a presence in the country, Anglo has been hit hard by recent industrial unrest in South Africa. Last month, Anglo Platinum, which is majority-owned by Anglo American, suspended its operations there in an attempt to protect the safety of tens of thousands of staff.
Ms Carroll, who regularly features in lists of the world's most influential businesswomen, joined Anglo at the beginning of 2007, and in March will mark her sixth anniversary in the job.
She is also a non-executive director of BP, the oil company which is this weekend finalising details of a deal to sell its Russian joint venture stake to the state-backed energy group Rosneft.
A former executive at Alcan, an aluminium producer that was bought by Rio Tinto, one of Anglo's main rivals, Ms Carroll also chairs Anglo Platinum and De Beers, two Anglo subsidiaries.
Since her arrival as the first woman and the first non-South African to run Anglo, she has overseen a sweeping shake-up of Anglo's operations, improving its safety record and tidying up a string of minority shareholdings owned by the company.
The company's share price performance has been poor, however, lagging behind that of several rivals.
Ms Carroll's supporters point to the spate of recent announcements from large mining companies announcing decisions to rein in capital spending amid soaring costs.
A source close to Anglo also said that recent engagement with shareholders in South Africa and the US had provided "some encouraging feedback about [Cynthia's] strategy and stewardship".
If Ms Carroll does step down in the near future, it would have broader implications given Government and European efforts to promote female corporate leadership.
Ms Carroll is one of just four women running companies in the UK's blue-chip index, while another, Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson, recently announced her intention to retire in the coming months.
People close to Anglo concede that there is little chance of Ms Carroll's successor being appointed from within the company, regardless of the timing.
Anglo declined to comment.