Sasol profit dips on stronger rand, recession-hit economy despite record output

by Paul Burkhardt

(Bloomberg) – Sasol Ltd., the world’s biggest producer of fuel from coal, said its Secunda synfuels operations posted record full-year output, even as a stronger rand and a recession-hit South African economy curbed profit.

Headline earnings, which exclude one-time items, declined by between 11 percent and 21 percent during the 12 months through June 30, the Johannesburg-based company said Tuesday in a statement. That equates to profit per share range of R32.71 ($2.51) to R36.85, compared with the R34.45 mean estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sasol’s stock rose the most this year.

A Sasol employee enters the company’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday. Sept. 13, 2010. Sasol, the largest producer of motor fuels made from coal, beat analysts’ earnings estimates and raised its dividend payment by 24 percent after increasing production and cutting costs. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg

Sasol benefits when the rand is weaker because most of its products are sold in dollars, while its costs are mainly in the South African currency. The rand strengthened by 11 percent against the dollar over the 12-month period. Co-Chief Executive Officer Bongani Nqwababa said in February that the company had hedged 30 million barrels of oil at $47 a barrel for the rest of the year, but didn’t have currency-related protections in place.

“Continued volatility in the macroeconomic environment, particularly the stronger rand and low oil price, has adversely impacted our financial performance,” Sasol said.

Sasol’s Secunda synfuels operations increased production by 1 percent to a record 7.83 million tons. Total liquid fuels sales volumes fell by 2 percent as a higher portion was allocated to the company’s chemical business and output dropped at the Natref refinery, where units were affected by an explosion in May.

Sasol shares climbed as much as 6.2 percent in Johannesburg trading, the most since Dec. 12, and were 4.2 percent higher at R387.64 as of 11:44 a.m. local time.

A strike over wages and benefits at the company’s coal-mining operations in the first half of the financial year also impacted results. Sasol will announce its full 2017 results on Aug. 21.