Carroll's Chance to Polish Anglo Gems; City FOCUS

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES ASHTON

AS Marilyn Monroe famously reminded her admirers, diamonds are a girl's best friend. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before a woman took the reins at mining giant Anglo American, which owns 45pc of De Beers, the world's largest gem producer.

But that logic didn't make the appointment of American Cynthia Carroll any less of a surprise. Not only is she the first female to lead buttoned-down Anglo, she is the first outsider and first non-South African to run the 89-year old firm that has its roots in exploiting Africa's rich gold seams.

Chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart signalled that the pace of change at Anglo would, if anything, speed up under his new recruit.

She will be only the sixth chief executive in its history. The company - of which the once dominant founding Oppenheimer family now owns just 3pc - is already committed to spinning off its [pounds sterling]4bn paper and packaging division Mondi early next year and returning [pounds sterling]2.6bn of cash to shareholders.

Moody-Stuart said: 'That apart, anything goes. Acquisitions or mergers. We have already been quite active in acquisitions and disposals.' Anglo's traditional strengths in glamorous gold, platinum and diamonds have left it less exposed to the huge demand for base metals driven by China's construction boom. The [pounds sterling]37bn company is eager to close the gap on rivals BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto - with whom a giant merger has been mooted.

But Moody-Stuart quashed hopes that British cement maker Tarmac would be offloaded anytime soon. 'It is a very reliable generator of cash and we might need that at some point in the future.' Harvard graduate Carroll, 49, is a geologist who spent 18 years at aluminium maker Alcan, most recently running its smelters and power generation division which operates in 20 countries.

However, the City was distinctly underwhelmed by the appointment of the sporty mother-of-four, who swam competitively at college.

Some investors had been hoping for a big hitter like Philippe Varin, who is in the process of selling steelmaker Corus to Tata of India.

Anglo shares fell 36p to [pounds sterling]23.79.

Paul Galloway at UBS said: 'She can focus on value, make hard decisions about the group and may be less conservative. …