Anglo posts profit beat as metal rally offsets coal slump

Anglo American Plc reported earnings that beat expectations after a wider commodity rally helped balance out another difficult year for its diamond business and a collapse in coal profits.

The company is the last of the major miners to report earnings in what’s been a bumper season for investors, with BHP Group and Rio Tinto Group already handing back record dividends. The payouts, along with a recent surge in metal prices, have stoked fresh speculation about a new commodities supercycle, driven by tight supplies and strong demand as the world moves to decarbonize.

So far Anglo’s returns have been more muted then some of its rivals, while it’s been more aggressive about pursuing growth. The company is planning to finish building a giant new copper mine in Peru next year and is also developing a potash mine in the U.K.

It’s also the most diversified of the big miners, producing products like platinum and diamonds that tend to flatten out its earnings. This year, its De Beers diamond unit reported its smallest profit since at least the early 2000s, and coal earnings plunged after weaker prices and production setbacks in Australia.

Still, the company was able to post its best second-half performance in a decade as prices for commodities such as copper and iron ore rallied strongly and the impact of the pandemic on its operations eased.

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Anglo will return 72 cents a share to investors, after the century-old mining company cashed in on surging prices for iron ore, palladium and copper. The dividend which is calculated as 40% of underlying earnings compared with 47 cents a year earlier. However, when including the interim dividend, the total for 2020 will be lower than 2019.

Anglo rose as much as 4.7% to the highest in almost a decade amid a wider rally in mining stocks, and traded 4.5% higher at 9:26 a.m. in London. The company reported underlying earnings of $9.8 billion compared with $10 billion a year earlier.

“While Anglo’s dividend is solid, it could have paid more,” said Ben Davis, an analyst at Liberum. “It’s clearly positioning itself more toward growth than rivals BHP and Rio.”

Copper touched the highest since 2011 Thursday as investors bet a raft of measures to boost growth will see consumption outstrip near-term supply. Prices of other commodities such as oil and iron ore have also surged, while mining stocks are at the highest in a decade.

“The fundamentals for commodities are strong, demand across most sectors is very good and supply is constrained,” Anglo’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani told reporters Thursday. “We think the market is in a good place.”

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