Could this African coup impact the growth outlook for Fortescue shares?

Fortescue's growth plans include some ambitious expansion in Western Africa.

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Fortescue Metals Group Ltd (ASX: FMG) shares are down 8.2% since 30 August.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) has come under pressure over that time as well, down 1.7%.

But Fortescue shares have faced a few added unwanted headwinds, with the ASX 200 mining stock losing CEO Fiona Hick and several other top executives in the space of a week.

And there's been another setback for the company in the time period as well, with the potential to crimp the medium-term growth outlook for Fortescue shares.

What's happening in Africa?

Despite a lot of attention lavished on Fortescue's green energy ambitions via its offshoot Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), iron ore remains the ASX 200 miner's top revenue earner. And the industrial metal plays an important role in the growth ambitions for Fortescue shares.

One of those growth projects, the Belinga Iron Ore Project, is located in Gabon.

As Fortescue notes on its website:

The Belinga Iron Ore Project has been progressively assessed by Fortescue since 2018, and we're working closely with the Gabonese government to deliver first shipment by the end of 2023. 

And in its FY 2023 results, the miner reported that mining at Belinga had commenced, with "studies advancing for a potential large-scale development".

Which is why the fallout from the 30 August coup in Gabon is worth keeping an eye on.

That coup saw a junta overthrow President Ali Bongo, whose family has led the West African nation for some 50 years. The junta has installed Raymond Ndong Sima as interim prime minister and Brice Oligui Nguema as transitional president.

Free elections have been promised. But they may not happen for two or more years.

What management is saying about Beligna and Fortescue shares

Freshly minted Fortescue CEO Dino Otranto sounds confident that the coup in Gabon won't derail this growth project.

According to Otranto (courtesy of The Australian Financial Review), "As far as coups go, this has been non-violent, it has been an orderly transition." He said Fortescue's staff in the country were safe.

Otranto noted that the coup leaders had managed to rapidly restore public services, including opening the airports.

"Eramet, the manganese supplier, was producing almost the next day," he said.

And he said the outlook for the iron ore mine's contributions to Fortescue shares' growth remains on track.

Regarding the ASX 200 miner's plans for Belinga, Otranto said:

We didn't miss a beat. We have opened our Libreville office, which is where the coup happened…

We have got great relationships with them all, Julie Shuttleworth [Fortescue's global growth executive] is meeting them all imminently. I am travelling over there pretty soon as well to meet the team on the ground.

And the newly installed government in Gabon has good reasons to see the Belinga project progress, with rights to a 10% stake.

Otranto said that Belinga "will be a significant contributor to the GDP of Gabon".

He added that the scale of the project could elevate it "above military and coup and political interests".

"There is actually undivided interest in getting the project going for the entire country, so we are absolutely still positive about the project," he said (quoted by the AFR).

Should the project progress as planned, it could indeed add to future growth for Fortescue shares.

"I have only seen two or three orebodies the size of this in my entire life, and every single hole we punch into this orebody just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It is phenomenal," Otranto said.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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