CUBA STANDARD — In a managed transition of leadership, Sherritt International Corp. appointed a mining industry veteran as new president and CEO.
Leon Binedell, a South Africa native who spent 25 years working in gold, nickel and other mining ventures, will take the helm at the Toronto-based mining and energy concern effective June 1.
He joins Sherritt after 10 consecutive quarterly losses and a successful debt restructuring, as demand for nickel and cobalt is rising again, in part thanks to electric-vehicle batteries.
Binedell most recently worked as chief financial officer of Canadian mid-tier miner Guyana Goldfields Inc. Prior to that, he was finance operating executive with Resource Capital Funds, a private equity fund focused on mining, advising a portfolio of 25 companies. Additional sector experience includes his time as a finance consultant for mining and energy at PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada, and general manager of business services at Xstrata Nickel (now Glencore), and chief financial officer at Koniambo Nickel SAS.
He began his career at Deloitte, where he was a senior audit manager. Binedell is a chartered professional accountant, and holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Johannesburg.
His predecessor David Pathe, who announced late last year that he would step down in 2021, will remain with the company “for a period of time to ensure an orderly transition”, the company said in a press release.
Pathe steered the company for nearly a decade, the second half of it through rough waters. Under his direction, Sherritt moved into and then out of a nickel mining joint venture in Madagascar, which had left Sherritt highly leveraged. As he returned the company to its initial focus on Cuba, Pathe managed to eliminate $3.5 billion in debt, amid challenging market conditions and increasingly hostile U.S. policy.
“David’s performance as chief executive was critical to Sherritt during a difficult and extremely volatile period for the nickel market, which provided no space for financial comfort,” said Sherritt Chairman Sir Richard Lapthorne. “His tireless work over many years addressing financial recovery from the consequences of the Ambatovy investment produced the remarkable balance sheet restructuring completed last year. This, in turn, enabled Sherritt to stop needing to spend all its time looking backwards. Instead, Sherritt is now able to look to the future with confidence and optimism, and has started to create options for setting the company onto a positive trajectory. That is David’s legacy.”
Meanwhile, the company announced its 11th consecutive quarterly loss. Sherritt logged in a net loss of CDN$5.6 million in the quarter ended March 31, compared to a net loss of CDN$42.2 million in the first quarter last year. The company increased nickel and cobalt output at its Moa joint venture plant by 9% and 19% respectively, and reduced its long-term debt by another $5 million.
Outgoing CEO Pathe called the first-quarter performance “strong”.
The company received payment of $5 million from its Cuban partners for the nickel joint venture, and $5.7 million in energy payments. Cuba has been falling behind in payments to its joint venture partner over the past two years. Nickel aside, the company was owed $154.2 million as of the end of the first quarter in its energy ventures with Unión Eléctrica and CubaPetróleo, up nearly $9 million from the end of the previous quarter.
“Sherritt anticipates continued variability in the timing of collections through the remainder of 2021, and is working with its Cuban partners to ensure timely receipts,” the company said in its report.