Mahmoud Thiam: Guinea's $200m Technocrat from UBS

Issue 106, October 2014

Continued from Page 4 

...whilst at Merrill and UBS to license concessions to smaller companies from emerging markets “that truly need the production,” rather than conglomerates, who simply stamp their name on a map.

“It's good to have a big name on your territory, but it's incomprehensible that a company of Rio's might was given such a valuable asset back in 1997 and 17 years later, I don't think they have produced a fully bankable feasibility study. It's unheard of. There's no valid explanation for that. If I was wrong when I stated it 5 years ago, time now has confirmed what I meant.”

Guinea he says has missed several up-cycles to bring Simandou into production. “We had a very near miss in this last cycle because BSGR and Vale would have developed.”

Thiam & Co.

As someone with deep banking and mining experience, Thiam is nonetheless very bullish on iron ore. “To me, iron ore, like oil, is a long term secular play. As long as human enterprise prospers, as long as humans reproduce in countries and people seek to grow and improve their standards of living, there will be demand for iron ore.”

“China can slow down, but its people will keep looking to house themselves, the poor will keep seeking to join the middle-class ranks and that goes for India, that goes for Brazil and now a billion people in Africa are also on the move."

"Anyone who tells me that because the markets are down now, iron ore is a bad investment, is playing games. They are smart enough to know that it goes in cycles.”

Since leaving office, Thiam has pulled his original team from UBS and founded an advisory business, Thiam & Co., on Lexington Avenue in New York. If there is regime change in Guinea, would he return to politics? “No, no,” he says, “I would not. I wouldn't say I regret going, but I would not subject my family to that again.”

“Iron ore, like oil, is a long term secular play.”

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