Anglo American Plc appointed veteran industrialist John Parker as chairman on Friday, moving to bolster its leadership as it seeks to fend off an unwanted merger proposal by rival Xstrata Plc .
Analysts said Parker was strong choice given his experience in management and merger activity, noting that although he made no mention of Xstrata, his first comments reiterated many of Anglo's arguments that it has strong prospects as a stand-alone group.
Analyst Tim Huff at RBS said the appointment was a huge positive strategically, noting: For Anglo shareholders, there will be a strong drive toward shareholder value, the delivery of which will in itself determine whether Anglo and Xstrata will go for a nil-premium merger.
Anglo, which owns the world's biggest platinum producer, said on Friday Parker would join the board immediately and would take up the post held by retiring Mark Moody-Stuart on August 1.
Parker is chairman of British energy network provider National Grid Plc and will retain that post, but will step down as co-chairman of paper and packaging group Mondi Group .
Mondi, part of Anglo until it was spun off two years ago, said Parker would step down as chairman but would stay on until a successor was found.
Anglo shares in London fell 0.4 percent to 1,645 pence by 0810 GMT, compared with a 0.7 percent drop in the UK mining index <.FTNMX1770>.
Some analysts had said a new chairman might be more inclined to open talks with Xstrata about its merger of equals proposal, which Anglo rejected as lacking value.
Anglo has said the Xstrata proposal does not make sense partly due to what it regards as its own superior mining assets with longer lives. It has also pointed to its own plan to cut $2 billion in costs by 2011 compared with Xstrata's forecast of merger synergies of $1 billion.
Anglo American has many great strengths, including a portfolio of high quality mining assets, an impressive growth profile, substantial and well advanced efficiency programs and a unique position in precious commodities, Parker said in a statement.
He offered support for Chief Executive Cynthia Carroll, who has been criticized in some media reports as not being as effective as her counterpart Mick Davis at Xstrata.
This global company has an opportunity to deliver considerable further growth and value in the coming years, Parker said. I look forward to working with the board and the excellent management team led by Cynthia Carroll to deliver those prospects to shareholders.
The South African government had said it wanted Anglo to appoint a black South African as chairman and on Thursday a government source said its list of possible candidates included business magnate and former union leader Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa is co-chairman with Parker at Mondi.
Officials from the South African government were not immediately available to comment on the appointment.
Sasha Naryshkine, a private client asset manager at Vestact in South Africa, said Anglo was a rational choice for chairman, recognizing that the bulk of its shareholder base is no longer in South Africa.
Key shareholders are not South African and most of them are UK-based ... They need someone who understands the shareholders in the UK.
In South Africa Anglo owns Anglo Platinum Ltd , the world's largest producer of the precious metal, as well as Africa's biggest iron ore miner Kumba Iron ore and Anglo Coal, the second-biggest exporter of coal in Africa's biggest economy.
(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Johannesburg; Editing by Dan Lalor and David Holmes)