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Will Kenmare managing director’s exit after 38 years embolden activist investor?

Business centred on Moma mine in Mozambique which produces 7% of global titanium feedstocks

Michael Carvill, the longest-serving top executive of an Iseq company, may only own about 0.5 per cent of Kenmare Resources.

But the titanium minerals miner has been very much his baby since he founded it 38 years ago by taking over a dormant publicly quoted company, Kenmare Oil Exploration, and brought in his father, Charles, a founding director of Tara Exploration, and serial entrepreneur John Teeling as investors.

The business is centred on the Moma mine in Mozambique, which produces 7 per cent of global titanium feedstocks, such as ilmenite, used in the manufacture of everything from paints and plastics to ceramics and textiles.

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After spending two decades getting Moma to commercial production in 2009, the company had a rollercoaster ride over the subsequent seven years, with Kenmare resorting to an emergency fundraising in 2016, a year after Carvill saw off a takeover attempt by Australia’s Iluka Resources.


The past five years have enabled Kenmare to make good on remunerating shareholders. It announced on Wednesday that it plans to pay $50 million (€46 million) on last year’s earnings, bringing total cash returns to $250 million over the period, including share buybacks.

But with the share price having fallen 44 per cent from its peak of two years ago — partly down to a retreat in ilmenite prices from a spike seen in the wake of Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — the market is not giving Kenmare any credit for the 100-year projected lifespan of Moma.

This prompted JO Hambro, a 6 per cent shareholder, to reveal last month that it had written to the board of Kenmare asking it to assess its “strategic options”, with its preference for an outright sale.

Carvill said on Wednesday that now was not the right time to sell, with ilmenite prices in a cyclical downturn. Besides, he expects the market to eventually better appreciate its real value, he said. “I’m not a believer in fully efficient capital markets, but neither am I believer in highly inefficient capital markets,” he said.

It may take time. But with Carvill having announced last week that he plans to step down later this year, JO Hambro might see an opportunity to enlist others to campaign for a near-term liquidity event.