The U.S. cleared the sale of the country’s sole producer of platinum and palladium to a miner whose biggest investor is Chinese, providing the first indication that the Trump administration’s tough talk on China won’t necessarily translate into blocking Beijing-linked deals.
Sibanye Gold Ltd.’s $2.2 billion deal to purchase Colorado-based Stillwater Mining Co. will go ahead after the companies received notice from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., known as CFIUS, that the tie-up posed no unresolved national security issues, Stillwater said Monday in a statement. CFIUS didn’t place any conditions on the approval, Sibanye said in a statement Tuesday.
The transaction won approval despite President Donald Trump’s criticism of China’s trade practices. Several people familiar with CFIUS, which has a mandate to protect U.S. national security, said the panel might require the companies to make concessions to mitigate any concerns raised by the addition of a Chinese shareholder, such as walling off sensitive aspects of the business. Stillwater is the sole U.S. miner of platinum and palladium, materials that are listed by the Defense Department as strategic, a label that covers other common metals such as copper, nickel and lead. Its Montana operations are also about 200 miles (322 kilometers) from Malmstrom Air Force Base, which maintains and operates part of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Sibanye said CFIUS’s unconditional approval set the stage for a vote on the deal by shareholders on April 25. CFIUS doesn’t comment on its reviews.
The deal is one of a number of takeovers by companies with Chinese investors under review by CFIUS, which is led by the Treasury Department and includes officials from the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments. The panel is grappling with a record number of deals at a time when the Trump administration has yet to fill key positions.
One deal awaiting approval is for Lattice Semiconductor Corp., which has agreed to be sold to Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, a firm backed by Chinese investors. Lattice said in a securities filing in March that the deal was resubmitted to CFIUS after the 75-day review period expired without a decision. Lattice said the companies remained “fully committed” to the deal and were “actively engaged” with CFIUS.
The panel also is reviewing a pending takeover of money-transfer company MoneyGram International Inc. by Ant Financial Services Group, which was spun out from the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. On Sunday, Ant Financial raised its bid to $18 a share from $13.25. A rival to Ant Financial, Euronet Worldwide Inc., had offered $15.20 a share and warned Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin of the “significant” national security risks of an Ant Financial-MoneyGram deal.
Sibanye, based in South Africa, is about 20 percent owned by a Chinese consortium. That shareholder, Gold One Group Ltd., is owned by several private and state-linked companies including China Development Bank Corp., according to a document provided this year by Sibanye. Sibanye said last month that CFIUS wanted to undertake further investigation into the Stillwater sale after an initial review period that ended on Feb. 28.
Adding Stillwater’s two Montana mines would make Sibanye the world’s third-biggest palladium producer. Stillwater sells most of its output to a European refiner, which in turn sells to various companies, including U.S. manufacturers.
Once completed, the deal will be the biggest takeover by a South African mining company since 2001, when a group including Anglo American Plc and the Oppenheimer family took control of De Beers.