Government has offered BCL Mine to Emirates Investment House (EIH) for a token price of US$1(P10) in an intricate deal that will see the Emirati firm taking over the liabilities of the mothballed mine including the obligation to pay for the disputed 50% stake in Nkomati Mine.
Minerals, Energy Security and Green Technology minister, Sadique Kebonang told BusinessWeek Wednesday that EIH was due to complete due diligence on Nkomati on Friday (today), which will inform whether government requests for another extension of the provisional liquidation period when the case returns to the High Court on Monday.
“Yes, we have offered BCL Mine for $1. In return, EIH takes over all liabilities of BCL including Nkomati except for environmental and historical obligations,” he said.
“It’s a normal business practice as you will appreciate that BCL’s creditors together with the Nkomati stake is a substantial amount of money.”
At the time when BCL was placed under provisional liquidation in October last year, its creditors amounted to close to P1 billion while Norilsk Nickel is demanding $270 million (P2.8 billion) for the Nkomati Mine stake.
According to Kebonang, EIH was expected to complete its due diligence on the Nkomati Mine by Friday after which they would table an offer to cover BCL creditors and Nkomati.
However negotiations are likely to be protracted which might lead to government, through the provisional liquidator, asking for another extension at Monday’s return date to court.
The sticking point to the negotiations is likely to be the value for Nkomati for which Norilsk Nickel is demanding $270 million.
It is understood in mining circles that at $270 million, the Nkomati stake is highly over priced as African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), the holder of the other 50% stake in the South African mine, have valued their stake at around $130 million.
The provisional liquidator has thus far asked for two extensions at the High Court as government was still negotiating with the potential investors.
“Negotiations for the price will start as soon as EIH is done with the due diligence, but
Because this is a voluntary liquidation it is within our rights to ask for another extension. It’s not for the courts to decide. There is no point in rushing this issue when we have the fate of a whole town at stake,” said Kebonang.
While Kebonang appears to be bullish on the EIH-BCL deal, doubts have emerged from industry players about the Emirati firm’s financial and technical capability to pull the deal through.
Provisional liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren told BusinessWeek that his own due diligence on EIH has uncovered nothing that suggests the firm has the capacity to carry-out the deal.
“EIH have hired a very reputable consultancy firm to carry-out the due diligence which suggests they are serious bidders, but our own research on the firm has not proved that they have neither the money nor the expertise to buy and restart operations at BCL.
But they come from UAE where there is lot of money lying around. Whether EIH has access to that money, we don’t know,” said Dixon-Warren.
In response, Kebonang said he was not worried by concerns raised by industry stakeholders on EIH’s capability as Arabs do business differently from people from other parts of the world.
“Concerns about EIH’s capability have been brought to me before and I believe they are legitimate questions, but I think they are also unfounded. You would not expect to find information about how much money EIH has on Google. Arabs do business differently from other people.
I can’t be overly suspicious for nothing. Let’s wait for them to complete their due diligence to determine the value of Nkomati, then we will talk,” said Kebonang.