Anglogold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, is on a global search for a new chief executive as Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan (Venkat), 53, steps down at the end of August to lead globally diversified Vedanta Resources.
AngloGold said yesterday (Monday) that a a sub-committee of the board, aimed to identify a successor, had been formed and would evaluate internal and external candidates before Venkat’s departure.
“The board will search globally for a candidate with the requisite experience and breadth of expertise, and who will be committed to maintaining the discipline and value focus that has become a hallmark of this business,” said Sipho Pityana, who chairs AngloGold Ashanti.
Under Venkat’s leadership, AngloGold reduced all-in sustaining costs by 16 percent , costs were cut by 30 percent , debt was slashed by one-third although it remains high.
Analysts said Venkat would leave a remarkable legacy.
René Hochreiter, a Johannesburg-based analyst at Noah Capital Markets, said Venkat had not wanted the job five years ago, but he took it anyway.
Hochreiter believed that AngloGold Ashanti would likely leave South Africa to establish its headquarters in London or Australia.
AngloGold Ashanti, which operates mines in South America, Australasia and African countries including Ghana and Tanzania, reduced its South African footprint to 13 percent after the sale of some of its assets last year.
It sold Moab Khotsong mine in the Vaal for R4 billion to Harmony Gold Company as well as its Kopanang mine to Hong Kong-based Heaven Sent SA Sunshine Investment for R100 million.
“There is no reason for the company to stay here. AngloGold’s production is focused on Australia, South America and Africa,” said Hochreiter.
Hochreiter said possible internal candidates included AngloGold Ashanti’s group planning executive Graham Ehm and chief operating officer the Ludwig Eybers.
Ian Cruickshanks, the chief economist at the South African Institute for Race Relations, said Venkat had concentrated on maintaining and developing only gold deposits that were profitable.
“Venkat has put profitability as a priority and tried to move the company to more mechanisation rather than conventional mining. He also ensured reserves are accessible at current prices instead of mining for the sake of mining,” Cruickshanks said.
Venkat, an Indian businessman who has worked at the company for 18 years, had been the chief executive since 2013 after taking over from Mark Cutifani, now the chief executive at global diversified mining house Anglo American plc.
Between 2005 and 2013 Venkat was the chief financial officer at the company.
Billionaire and Vedanta chief executive, Anil Agarwal, said Venkat had a strong track record managing a complex portfolio of operating assets and projects across Africa.
“He has proved his ability to deliver significant operating and financial improvements, while also ensuring important advances in sustainability,” said Agarwal.
Venkat will replace Kuldip Kaura, Vedanta’s current interim chief executive.