While announcing an additional $1 billion share buyback, Global miner Rio Tinto noted that a rebound in iron ore prices had helped the mining giant to report its first-half profit that more than doubled compared to what it had generated a year earlier. The company made the announcement on Wednesday.
However, Thomson Reuters analysts’ forecast of $4.19 billion in earnings was n=missed by the company as it reported underlying earnings for the six months to June 30 at $3.94 billion which rose from the $1.56 billion that the company had reported in the same quarter a year earlier. And as investors moved to take stock of the company’s new payout policy, the company’s stock dipped 2.2 percent in early deals Wednesday.
Including amounts of $2 billion on the dividend side and $1 billion of share buybacks, the mining giant is to return $3 billion to shareholders.
The company’s half-year dividend, which rose from 45 cents a share in 2016 to 110 cents a year this year, was lauded by Rio Tinto’s Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques while speaking on the television show on Wednesday after announcement of the results.
“We have performed very well in a very uncertain and very volatile environment,” Jacques noted.
“The $2 billion of dividend is the highest interim dividend in the history of Rio Tinto.”
After suffering its worst earnings in over a decade in 2015, the company did away with its “progressive dividend” program in early 2016, and the latest returns come after a shift in Rio Tinto’s payout policy that saw the impact of the policy change. The business had to re-evaluate to better reflect volatile commodity cycles even as the investors received guaranteed dividend payments under the old policy. This policy had led to significant suffering for the company with fall inn share and profits in 2015.
However, the new system allows investors to see greater benefits at times of strong performance, Jacques insisted.
“If we had stuck to the previous dividend that we had a couple of years ago our shareholders today would not enjoy these kinds of returns,” Jacques said. “The new policy, which is to say that at the top of cycles shareholders will benefit from stronger cash flows, is implemented today.”
Throughout the cycle, a longer-term dividend range of 40-60 percent of underlying earnings in aggregate, has been outlined by the company.
After the company closes its $2.45 billion sale of Coal & Allied, estimated for the third quarter of 2017, further payouts could come “down the track”, Jacques added.
“When we have the cash on the balance sheet we will go through the capital allocation cycle and we will decide as a board what we do with the cash between investing in the long-term, cash returns for shareholders and the strength of the balance sheet,” he said
(Adapted from CNBC)