Polo Resources Ltd
|Polo Resources Ltd|
|Based in||London, Toronto|
|Active in||Colombia, Brazil, Namibia, Mongolia, Namibia, Bangladesh, West Africa|
|Targeted||base metals, energy fuels, precious metals|
Polo Resources Ltd seems, effectively, to be a “fiefdom” of entrepreneur Stephen R Dattels (qv).
In August 2011, the company's executive Co-Chairman, Neil Herbert, described Polo's "ethos" as "... invest[ing] in projects where we can add value, irrespective of geographic location or commodity focus." - focussing on "attractive new investment opportunities both in mining, oil and gas." [Dow Jones newswires 16 August 2011].
The company has extensive coal interests in Mongolia, as well as other prospects in Brazil and Colombia.
In early 2008 it started negotiating to purchase the majority of the stake held by RAB Capital in GCM Resources [Hemscott 20 February 2008], and by May that year, had built up a stake of 29.72%, although RAB still held onto 25.96% of GCM [Hemscott 18 May 2008] - while being the largest single shareholder (at 8.31%) in Polo Resources itself.
As of August 2009, Polo had 29.34% in GCM - a stake which had slightly increased (to around 29.82%) by August 2011, and slid slightly to 29.78% a year later. Meanwhile, RAB Capital's own equity in GCM had slipped below the notifiable 3% level (This UK hedge fund is no longer believed to have any interest in the highly-controversial Bangladesh-centred company's attempts to open the country's first open-pit coal mine at a location called Phulbari).
Along with two of its directors, in early 2009 the firm had also accumulated a 5.7% interest in Namibia-focused uranium company, Extract Resources Ltd [MJ 3 April 2009]. In October that year, Polo announced that it had set up an Independent Investment Committee to oversee its holdings in GCM, Extract, and another coal company, AIM-listed Caledon Resources plc, which Dattels had founded [Dow Jones, 13 October 2009].
At this point, Polo had a 25.91% stake in Caledon Resources plc. But an attempt by Polo to merge with Caledon Resources plc failed in summer 2010; a bid by China's state-owned Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co Ltd (GRAM) to take over the London-listed company was mounted in November that year [MJ 12 November 2010].
On 23 June 2011 finally quit Caledon, saying it expected to receive £100 million from the sale [Dow Jones newswires, 16 August 2011; FT 3 September 2011].
In 2010, Polo also announced the sale of its interest in a Mongolian coal and uranium joint venture with Peabody Energy Corp (the world's biggest private coal company) to China's Winsway Coking Coal Holdings Ltd, thus recouping for itself US$35 million in cash [MJ 2 July 2010].
Then, later the same year, Polo announced it had secured an option to purchase control of the Brazilian iron exploration company, Minfer, and was looking to acquire other iron ore projects in West Africa as well as Brazil [MJ 12 November 2010; see also Stephen R Dattels].
In May 2011, Polo completed the acquisition of a 31.8% interest in TSX-listed Colombian gold exploration company, Andina Gold, which announced that it would use these funds to purchase full control of the San Bolivar gold project in Southern Bolivar; Polo was appointed the operator of the exploration phase of the project [MJ 27 May 2011].
These recent disposals and acquisitions seemed to indicate that Polo might be moving away from further investment in fuel minerals (though not so Stephen Dattels himself).
However, in early September 2009, the company announced that "following a review by its Independent Investment Committee [it had] retained advisers to evaluate strategic options with respect to its shareholding in GCM Resources PLC". Polo believed it could "negotiate with strategic parties who would be critical to the development of the world class Phulbari coal deposit through participation on an appropriate basis with Polo", and thus "unlock such value over and above that currently being assigned to GCM by the stock market." [Dow Jones newswires 2 September 2011].
The "market" received this announcement with some scepticism and Polo's share price dipped slightly, while Financial Times commentator, Christopher Thompson, reminded readers that GCM's "politically sensitive" project would "involve relocating large numbers of local people" [FT 3 September 2011 op cit].
In 2007, Polo Resources made a sale to French nuclear giant,Areva, of UraMin – a Namibia-targeted uranium exploration outfit, then listed on both the TSX and Aim exchanges. It proved to be a massive financial white elephant, costing US$2.5 billion for the French company, while at the same time bringing much needed-cash into the coffers of Polo.
In a comment, posted on the Mining.com website in January 2012, an expert who did a desktop review of UraMin raised important questions as to whether the Polo "players" had deliberately deceived Areva as to the real potential value of UraMin.
Although the expert qualified his suggestion of fraud by saying the deal was “more likely absolute stupidity” on Areva’s part, one is left wondering why one of he world's most powerful uranium corporations would make such a stupendous blunder ["A reader responds to 'Atomic Anne, her husband and the dubious $2.5 billion African uranium deal', Mining.com, 18 January 2012].
Just a week later, more allegations emerged on this distinctly dodgy, if not fraudulent deal.
Reuters (25 January 2012) and France's Mediapart (18 January) published a roster of accusations of spying, counter-spying, fraud, lying and bitter rivalries within Areva itself – which helped result in the sacking of Areva's CEO Anne Lauvergeon by Sarkozy in June 2011.
The stories focussed on allegations of incredibly irresponsible lack of “due diligence” (when assessing the true nature and value of the UraMin uranium holdings) and of bribery within Areva itself.
However, neither news service mentioned any possible role played by UraMin, or one of its agents, in doctoring the data or facilitating the disastrous deal itself.
But, meanwhile, Africa Mining Intelligence got hold of a report, carried out by a Swiss firm, that raised questions about the potentially corrupt role of two Namibian politicians, and a South African (Geingob, Tilahun and Phosa), in striking the deal between UraMin and Areva. ["Areva’s middle-men in UraMin deal", Africa Mining Intelligence,25 January 2012].
Thgough "the jury is out" on whether one or other of these men might have been working for Areva, rather than Dattels and his partners at UraMin, it is noteworthy that UraMin was established by Dattels two years before the deal with Areva (and Areva had no mining interests in Namibia at the time).
It may therefore be somewhat naïve to believe the London-listed company had no suspect contacts with the three southern Africans, at some point after 2005.