The board of Sirius Minerals is distinctly sheepish in its statement accepting today’s takeover by Anglo American.
And, given that 85,000 retail investors were suckered into buying shares in their super-high-risk mine development in the North York Moors, so they should be.
Many were naive locals wanting to support a potential lifeline for the local economy. People like Nigel Howard, a 76-year-old who cashed in his £30,000 pension and put the lot into Sirius when the shares were 24p. Today, the board accepted an offer at their true value, 5.5p.
The truth is, this £4 billion project should never have been a standalone public company, whatever its advisers and brokers, JPMorgan, Lazard, Liberum and Shore Capital, said. Depending heavily on winning state subsidies which always looked unlikely, it failed to attract the institutional investors who recognised the huge risks.
Chief executive Chris Fraser (paid nearly £1 million last year) blamed the City for not supporting him. In fact, institutional investors got this one right, protecting pension funds from losses.
The silver lining, and it is a significant one, is that the mine will now go ahead under the expert stewardship of a world-class producer.
This will create thousands of jobs in an area with one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country.
Anglo is big enough to take the investment risks and has the marketing clout to make it a financial success. But what a shame so many pensioners had to suffer to get here.