Rio Tinto back in the black after 12 percent profit boost

Rio Tinto back in the black after 12 percent profit boost

Rio Tinto back in the black after 12 percent profit boost

Rio Tinto's first profit increase since 2013 gave a glimpse of what a turnaround in commodity prices can do to the biggest miners.

According to a report issued to investors by Deutsche Bank on Tuesday, shares of Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) had their rating reiterated by analysts to "Buy".

Since the start of 2017, a further USD2.45 billion of asset sales have been agreed, and Rio Tinto said it is continuing to invest in three commodities, namely bauxite, copper and iron ore, the last of which is the primary driver of earnings for the business.

"Rio is in good shape today", Chief Executive Officer Jean Sebastien Jacques said on a call with reporters.

The UK oil and gas index fell 1.3 percent, making it the biggest sectoral decliner, after oil prices extended Tuesday's falls following a massive increase in USA fuel inventories and a slump in Chinese demand.

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"Today's results show we have kept our commitment to maximise cash and productivity from our world-class assets, delivering $3.6 billion in shareholder returns while maintaining a robust balance sheet", Rio CEO J-S Jacques said. Rio Tinto is 87% higher in the same time period. This will be helped in my view by a balance sheet which is getting stronger, with net debt reduced to $9.6 billion.

In addition to the $3.1 billion in dividends, the company also announced a $500 million United Kingdom buy-back. While the full-year dividend fell 21 percent to 170 cents a share, it was at the top of Rio's payout range of 40 to 60 percent of earnings under a new policy introduced last year. Rio Tinto said USD1.60 billion worth of pretax sustainable operating cash cost improvements were delivered in 2016, with USD1.30 billion of divestments also completed. In the previous year they have lagged other mining companies such as Glencore PLC (LON:GLEN) (LSE:GLEN.L), Anglo American plc (LON:AAL) (LSE:AAL.L), Antofagasta plc (LON:ANTO) (LSE:ANTO.L) and BHP Billiton plc (LON:BLT) (LSE:BLT.L). The miner last month said it produced 6% more iron ore from its Western Australia mining operations during the year.

BP said it expects to reduce capital investment in the business to between $16 billion and $17 billion this year, from $19.5 billion in 2015.

"In August 2016, Rio Tinto announced it would not proceed with the development of Bunder due to commercial considerations and would be seeking to close all project infrastructure", the company said. Last month, Rio agreed to sell most of the company's thermal coal assets to a firm controlled by China's Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. for US$2.45 billion.

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