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Lonmin seeks new leader as ailing CEO steps aside

A series of deadly strikes at Lonmin’s South African mines increased pressure on a company that was already being squeezed by high costs and weak platinum prices.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO/Reuters

South African miner Lonmin PLC opened the search for a new chief executive officer to revive its fortunes after a torrid 2012, as Ian Farmer, who is being treated for a serious illness, officially stepped aside on Friday.

The absence of a permanent CEO has been a major concern cited by investors seeking a clear strategy from the company after months of financial pressure, weak platinum prices and a wave of deadly strikes at South African mines.

Chief financial officer Simon Scott had ruled himself out of the job on a permanent basis, Lonmin said, but he would continue to fill the role until a replacement is found.

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Mr. Farmer was admitted to hospital in August, coinciding with a wave of unrest at the group's Marikana mine that left 46 people dead and paralyzed operations.

The strikes increased pressure on a company that was already being squeezed by high costs and weak platinum prices.

It was forced to turn to investors last month to raise $817-million (U.S.) to avoid breaching lending terms.

Its biggest shareholder, Swiss miner Xstrata PLC, which holds a 25-per-cent stake, supported the rights issue but it said it wanted management changes.

Lonmin chairman Roger Phillimore said the group would miss Mr. Farmer's ability, commitment and drive at the company, where he worked for more than 26 years, including four as CEO.

The stock has gained some ground since Nov. 9, when it touched a 13-year low of £2.27 ($3.67), but it remains 45-per-cent lower than it was 12 months ago.

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