Anglo cuts value of De Beers by R30 billion

Anglo American 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.

Anglo today 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 impact of the downturn in diamonds and PGMs has been clear. Anglo today wrote down the value of its De Beers unit by $1.6 billion (R30 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 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. 

Anglo says that reset puts it in a position to focus on getting more profit from the metal it mines. But the scale of the operational snarls has heightened focus on the company’s leadership – both for executives and the board – with speculation lingering that it could be a target for activist investors.

Still, Anglo is still looking at growth, striking a deal with Vale SA on Thursday to integrate the Serpentine 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.