BHP spinoff South32 writes down $1.9 bn on manganese, coal

22nd July 2015, Comments 0 comments

Mining giant BHP Billiton's spinoff South32 on Wednesday flagged pre-tax impairments of US$1.9 billion on manganese and coal assets in Australia and South Africa as commodity prices struggle.

South32 -- which debuted on the Australian Securities Exchange in mid-May -- demerged from the Anglo-Australian giant and has a diversified metals and mining portfolio including aluminium, coal, nickel, manganese, silver, lead and zinc, with most of its mines in the southern hemisphere.

The charges of US$1.9 billion stem from US$445 million at the Australian Manganese unit, US$882 million at South Africa Manganese and US$539 million at the Wolvekrans Middelburg complex within South Africa Energy Coal, South32 said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

They largely offset the previous fair value uplift of US$2.1 billion for its manganese assets, the Perth-headquartered miner said.

Shares in South32 closed 2.19 percent lower to Aus$1.79, below an opening trading price of Aus$2.13 on May 18.

South32 said it had responded to challenging market conditions by temporarily suspending and reducing operations at the Metalloys manganese plant in South Africa, and cutting aluminium production at the Alumar facility in Brazil.

Commodity prices have dived in recent months, weighed down by the strong US dollar, a supply glut in some metals, and soft Chinese demand.

"The curtailment of aluminium production at Alumar and manganese alloy production at Metalloys demonstrates our commitment to maximise financial performance per share, rather than volume," South32 chief executive Graham Kerr said.

"Our high-quality assets, cash generating capacity and strong balance sheet underpins our confidence in the outlook for our business."

Metallurgical coal production was up 23 percent in the June quarter compared with the March quarter for a year-on-year increase of 25 percent. Energy coal output fell by five percent for the same period but rose 12 percent for the 2015 financial year, South32 said.

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© 2015 AFP

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