John Paulson says he supports AngloGold Ashanti

John Paulson
John Paulson
John Paulson, the hedge fund billionaire who earned an estimated $2.5 billion last year betting against a recovery in the U.S. housing market, said he supports managers of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. after becoming the South African mining company’s biggest investor.

AngloGold Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani “is an outstanding leader,” Paulson’s New York-based firm Paulson & Co. said in a statement late yesterday. “He is focusing on safety, low costs, production, growth and diversification.”

Paulson, whose company manages about $29 billion, increased his bets on gold by adding to his stake in Johannesburg-based Gold Fields Ltd. in the second quarter to become the third- largest owner of its U.S.-listed shares. The 53-year-old hedge fund manager bought a $1.28 billion holding in AngloGold, also based in Johannesburg, in March and has since boosted his stake to about 12 percent, according to an Aug. 12 regulatory filing.

Paulson paid $32 a share for the 11.3 percent stake he bought from Anglo American Plc. AngloGold’s American depositary receipts have gained about 19 percent since Paulson’s acquisition.

“Our experience of him is as a very interested shareholder,” Cutifani said in an interview yesterday in Buenos Aires. “He’s interested in the approach, has a view and likes to share his view, but it’s been nothing but very supportive.”

Hedge funds are private pools of capital whose managers can buy or sell any assets, bet on falling as well as rising prices and participate in profits from money invested.

$2.5 Billion Earnings

Paulson earned an estimated $2.5 billion last year, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha Magazine. His Credit Opportunities Fund soared almost sixfold in 2007 on bets that subprime mortgages would plummet.

Paulson increased his investments in gold companies as governments increase spending to help their economies recover from recession, igniting fears of accelerating inflation.

AngloGold, Africa’s largest gold producer, is seeking to boost output in Colombia and Brazil to reduce its dependence on aging gold mines in South Africa. The company plans to spend as much as $1 billion next year developing projects including La Colosa in Colombia, which the company has described as the world’s most significant gold discovery in the last decade.

Gold prices have risen 7.2 percent this year compared with a 15 percent decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of the largest U.S. companies. Demand for gold as a store of value and hedge against inflation rose as governments spend trillions of dollars to combat the worst recession since World War II. Gold for December delivery rose $1 to $947 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday.

‘Supporter of Gold’

“Clearly, John is a supporter of gold as he said at the time and he’s reinforced this in the conversations,” Cutifani said. “Clearly, he has a strong view on the price outlook, it’s certainly no secret his view is on the upside.”

AngloGold expects to produce as much as 6 million ounces of gold within five years, compared with expected output of between 4.7 million ounces and 4.8 million ounces of gold in 2009.

South Africa currently accounts for about 40 percent of AngloGold’s business. This will decline to between 30 percent and 35 percent over the next year five years amid expansion in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Australia, Cutifani said.

“In South Africa they are mature gold fields,” he said. “The opportunities aren’t as great as in other parts of the world.”

Source: Bloomberg

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