Anglo American plunges into $1.5-bn net loss in 2012

Miner Anglo American on Friday posted an annual net loss of $1.49 billion (1.11 billion euros) after taking a $4.6-billion hit on the value of its Minas-Rio iron-ore project in Brazil and platinum assets.

The loss after taxation compared with a net profit of $6.17 billion in 2011, Anglo said in a results statement.

That was Anglo American's first net loss in more than a decade as the London-listed miner was also hurt by a sharp fall in global commodity prices.

The news comes one day after Anglo-Australian rival Rio Tinto posted a 2012 net loss of $2.99 billion due to hefty writedowns on its Mozambique coal and aluminium businesses.

That marked Rio's first net loss since becoming a dual-listed company in 1995 and was also due to a dip in commodity markets.

Anglo added on Friday that its operational profit, stripping out exceptional items such as the impairment charge, dived 44 percent to $6.16 billion. That was broadly in line with analysts' expectations. Group sales meanwhile fell 5.9 percent to $28.8 billion.

However, the company hiked its full-year shareholder dividend by 15 percent to $0.53 per share, citing confidence in the underlying business.

"As a result of markedly weaker commodity prices, ongoing cost pressures and an operating loss in our platinum business, Anglo American reported an underlying operating profit of $6.2 billion, a 44-percent decrease," said outgoing Anglo chief executive Cynthia Carroll.

Anglo had already revealed late last month that it would take a $4.0-billion hit on the value of its Minas-Rio iron-ore mining project in Brazil owing to delays that have sent costs soaring.

"We recorded impairments totalling $4.6 billion (post-tax) in relation to Minas-Rio and a number of platinum projects that are uneconomical, which is disappointing," added Carroll.

"In platinum, we completed our review in January 2013 and have put forward proposals to create a sustainable, competitive and profitable platinum business.

"We, of course, regret the potential impact on jobs and communities and have designed an extensive social plan to more than offset any such impact."

Back in October, Anglo announced that US citizen Carroll had decided to step down from the helm of the mining giant, which was in recent months by slumping platinum output on the back of fatal strike action by workers in South Africa.

She will be replaced by AngloGold Ashanti boss Mark Cutifani at the start of April. Australian Cutifani has been chief executive officer of South Africa-based gold producer AngloGold Ashanti since 2007.

Carroll added Friday that the group was optimistic over the outlook and forecast that "robust" expansion in emerging nations would boost global commodity demand.

"Looking ahead, recent months have brought a degree of renewed optimism to the economic prospects. While European and Japanese economic activity remains weak, recent policy changes ought to stimulate growth in 2013.

"Alongside a continuing recovery in the US, we expect robust growth in the major emerging economies -- especially China and India -- as they benefit from continuing urbanisation. Rising living standards and an expanding middle class should support demand for our products across our diversified mix."

The dividend hike helped send Anglo's share price 2.71 percent higher to 2,067.5 pence on London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies, which was down 0.10 percent at 6,321.15 points.