Home > Financial reports > Exchange rates weigh on Rio Tinto profits

Exchange rates weigh on Rio Tinto profits

August 12, 2011

“Rio Tinto’s iron-ore-driven profits set company records for the interim period but shares fell for a fourth day as investors’ flight from equities hits resources stocks hardest.

Tom Albanese, chief executive of the mining company, commented on the widening gap between miners’ rising earnings momentum and falling share prices. ‘There is a distorted set of economic drivers associated with the current uncertainties with respect to us and the European debt markets,’ he told the Financial Times. ‘You have an exaggerated diversion of ‘risk on’ to ‘risk off’ trades. It is difficult to come to any conclusions, but this is a backdrop that could persist for some time.’

… sector-wide pressures of rising costs and adverse exchange rates weighed on Rio’s profitability, contributing to earnings that missed consensus expectations. Higher costs for energy, materials and equipment lowered Rio’s underlying earnings by $479m, and exchange rates between the weak US dollar and strong Australian and Canadian dollars – currencies in which it incurs costs – reduced them by a further $810m in the first half.”

Source: Financial Times, August 4 2011

Observations:

  • Total increase of earnings because of price increases ($5bln) was offset by almost $3bln lower earnings because of volumes, costs and exchange rates.
  • Just as Anglo American, the company gives a detailed explanation of the rising costs, providing rare details on the waiting times for various types of equipment (see outlook – page 8). The outlook shows the average delivery time for equipment currently is approx. 6-9 months higher than average.
  • The impact of lost volumes because of weather impact (hurricanes & floods) in the first half of the year, often mentioned as important driver of prices, is only $245mln.

Implications:

  • Rio Tinto does not appear to be concerned with the current importance of iron ore as the driver of earnings. The company regards construction industry growth in China the most important metric for the economic outlook and mentions expansion of production capacity of Western Australian iron ore mines as key development priority. The company joins competitor Vale in this single-minded focus, while BHP Billiton appears to be more committed to diversify, as signalled by its acquisitions in the shale gas industry.
  • The presented $26bln capex package does not yet include projects in advanced feasibility stage such as Simandou (iron ore in Guinea). The relatively conservative dividend and buy-back program does leave room for very aggressive development spending and helps the company to keep a very low gearing. So far all major miners choose to keep the gearing low despite their positive commodities market forecasts.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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