The following release was issued by Highveld Steel and Vanadium Corporation Limited, Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and Samancor Limited in South Africa on Tuesday, 13 November 2001.
It follows an Australian Stock Exchange release issued by BHP Billiton on 25 July 2001 detailing a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding signed between the partners of the Columbus Stainless Steel Joint Venture and Acerinox S.A. for the sale of a 64% stake in the joint venture.
BHP Billiton holds its interest in Columbus via its 60 per cent ownership of Samancor. The sale will result in BHP Billiton's effective interest in Columbus reducing from 20 per cent to 7.2 per cent.
Highveld Steel and Vanadium, Samancor Limited and the Industrial Development Corporation (the Partners in the Columbus Joint Venture) have reached an agreement with Acerinox S.A. whereby Acerinox will acquire a 64% interest in Columbus Stainless with effect 1 January 2002. This agreement follows signature of a memorandum of understanding in July 2001.
Under the agreement, the Partners will together acquire 5.8 million new Acerinox shares at an agreed price of €40 per share, equivalent to €232 million and Acerinox will acquire 64% of Columbus Stainless for an equivalent amount of €232 million. After the implementation of the transaction, Highveld, Samancor and the IDC will each hold approximately 2.9% of Acerinox's share capital and 12% of Columbus Stainless.
Acerinox is regarded as an ideal controlling shareholder for Columbus in an industry characterised by increasing consolidation. Acerinox, listed on the Madrid Stock Exchange, is one of the world's premier stainless steel producers, and has already embarked on an international expansion strategy. Acerinox is widely acknowledged as the benchmark stainless steel producer in terms of productivity and cost of production. Its operations are profitable with strong cash flows.
As a member of the Acerinox group, Columbus will be a part of one of the world's largest and most successful stainless steel businesses. It will have access to new technology and to an existing global distribution network. This should ensure that Columbus will become sustainably profitable with consequent benefits for the South African economy.
Highveld, Samancor and the IDC have agreed to hold all their Acerinox shares for a period of 3 years from the effective date, and to retain at least 50% of their holdings for a further two years. Each of the Partners will be entitled to be represented on the board of Columbus.