Anglo American’s profit plunge leads to dividend cut and portfolio review

By Thomas Biesheuvel

Anglo American Plc reported a steep fall in profit and lowered its dividend after a slump in key commodities it produces.

While much of the mining industry has been hit by falling prices and weaker demand, for Anglo it’s been especially bruising. Diamonds and platinum group metals — commodities that are unique to its portfolio — have plunged this year. The company was also forced to drastically slash its copper production goals, sending its shares tumbling late last year.

Read more: Anglo American Platinum announces 15% job cuts amidst economic pressures

The impact of the downturn in diamonds and PGMs has been clear. Anglo on Thursday wrote down the vale of its De Beers unit by $1.6 billion, while earlier this week proposed cutting 3,700 jobs across its South African platinum operations. It also took a writedown on its nickel business.

Anglo reported a more than 30% fall in underlying earnings to $9.96 billion, while cutting its final dividend by 45% from the same period in 2022. 

The miner follows on from bigger rivals Rio Tinto Group and Glencore Plc in reporting smaller profits and lower dividends. 

Many of the metals needed to decarbonize the global economy have been caught in a commodities rout. Nickel prices sank 45% last year, hammered by a surge in supply from Indonesia, while lithium also plunged. Other metals like copper have also underwhelmed amid a wobbling Chinese economy.

For Anglo things were made worse by a series of setbacks across its portfolio.

The company stunned shareholders in December when it announced deep production cuts to reduce costs, wiping out almost a fifth of its market value in just one day. While problems at its platinum and iron ore operations in South Africa had been well publicized, big output drops from its flagship copper business in South America came as a surprise. 

Read more: Anglo American CEO defends leadership amid commodity price slump and operational challenges

Anglo says that reset puts it in a position to focus on getting more profit from the metal it produces. It is also reviewing its mines across the business.

“We’re in the process of reviewing our portfolio from top to bottom,” Chief Executive Officer Duncan Wanblad said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Every asset must play a role through the cycle, it can’t just be a good asset at the top of the cycle.”

Anglo is still looking at growth, striking a deal with Vale SA on Thursday to integrate the Serpentina iron ore deposit with its Minas Rio mine in Brazil. Vale will take a 15% stake in the enlarged operation in exchange for $157.5 million in cash and a resource that contains 4.3 billion tons of iron ore. 

Despite the call from some analysts and investors to pare back expansion plans and even sell some assets, Wanblad said the company must continue to look at growth.

“We cannot take our eye of growth,” he said.

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