THERE’s more than one reason why investors would do well to steer clear of Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum company.

Lonmin, headquartered in London but mining solely in the Bushveld complex, is the fine institution that brought you the era-defining slaughter at its Marikana mine in 2012.

Fast-forward two years, and what is Lonmin doing now?

Well, it turns out it is trying to gag critics with “interdicts”, ignoring shareholders and claiming that its evidence to the Farlam commission on Marikana is secret.

It wasn’t meant to be like that. When 46-year-old Ben Magara, Anglo Coal’s highly rated boss, took over from Ian Farmer as CEO in July last year, people crossed their fingers, hoping that he would dial back years of shoddy leadership.

Magara told journalists his management style was to “get to the coalface”. “My approach is to get to know the people and they will tell me what needs to be done,” he told one.

And yet, Magara’s “new Lonmin” is anything but keen to engage.

Two weeks ago, a nongovernmental group, the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), said it would release a report, drawn from evidence at the Farlam commission, on how Lonmin ships profits through Bermuda, a tax haven.

So what did Magara’s company do? It dashed to court for an interdict to stop the AIDC and its Swedish economist, Dick Forslund, from “presenting or publishing in any form whatsoever, any report based on information disclosed in the course of the [Marikana] hearings”.

In its application, Lonmin argued that the evidence given to Farlam was “confidential”. And the AIDC, it said, was “clearly aiming to disseminate information that could only have been derived from the commission”.

Imagine the chutzpah. How dare the AIDC try to place the results of a public commission, set up so the public would know why Marikana happened, in the public domain? You can see why Lonmin is aghast.

Two weeks ago, a nongovernmental group, the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), said it would release a report, drawn from evidence at the Farlam commission, on how Lonmin ships profits through Bermuda, a tax haven.

In the end, the interdict case did not happen. Lonmin reached an out-of-court deal with Forslund to delay the report — which was eventually released this week anyway.

Forslund ’s report makes for interesting reading — but that isn’t the issue. Rather, it is the bullyboy tactics of a company using its financial muscle to pull the shutters closed.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey defended this position by saying the AIDC report contained “conclusions drawn on the evidence, and that’s Farlam’s responsibility”.

Forslund, for one, doesn’t buy it. He said: “Surely this is part of the national healing process that people discuss this? These documents were tabled as public information at the Farlam commission, so how can Lonmin claim it is ‘confidential’?”

But it is not just tree-hugging hipsters who Lonmin has a problem with. It turns out it doesn’t have much time for its own shareholders either.

One shareholder, the Cape Town based asset manager Northstar, got so frustrated at the perpetual brushoffs that it took the unusual step of writing an open letter to Lonmin, imploring it to please answer the phone, return an e-mail, anything. The letter, dated October 6 and sent to Magara, said that, since February, its analysts had been asking for pretty important information. “No response was forthcoming,” it said.

So Northstar changed tack, arranging a meeting for September 4 with Magara and executive Simon Scott through one of Lonmin’s banks.

Two analysts flew to Lonmin’s fancy HQ in Johannesburg’s Melrose Arch to meet them, but “the meeting was cancelled at the last moment”. Perhaps we can understand why. After all, there were some pretty

important issues to discuss — such as how has Lonmin’s cash flow recovered from the five-month strike, its sizable debt and the board’s competence.

Speaking this week, Northstar MD Adrian Clayton said Lonmin had since “apologised, engaged us and answered our questions”.

The thing is, Northstar has not had this experience with any other JSE listed company. “It’s not something we’re used to,” Clayton said.

“Our concern was that it was quite opaque and we needed to understand what is going on.”

You would imagine that the least you could do if you were Magara — who took home R12.5-million for three months’ work last year — is try to placate shareholders.

Especially given that since July 2007 Lonmin’s share price has plunged 90% from R332.87 to R32.77 — not exactly a rousing sign of investor confidence.

So much for Magara’s pledge of open arms, and how he loves “getting to know the people”.

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