Rio Tinto profits spike, record dividend on the way

Strengthening commodity prices have guided Rio Tinto to an almost doubling of profits and a record dividend for shareholders.

The company reported net profits of $US8.76 billion ($11.1 billion) in the 2017 financial year, a 90 per cent improvement on the $US4.61 billion it delivered in 2016.

Its performance was driven by higher commodity prices, with sales revenues surging by $US6.2 billion to $US40 billion.

Rio has announced a record dividend of $US5.2 billion, or $US2.90/share, for the year to reflect the spike in its financial numbers.

In addition, the miner announced another share buyback of $US1 billion, to be completed by the end of 2018.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, announcing his first full-year result since taking over the role, described the company’s 2017 performance as a strong set of results.

“The strength of our cash flow is a result of resilient prices during the year coupled with a robust operational performance and a focus on mine to market productivity,” Jacques said.

“Our strong balance sheet, world-class assets and disciplined allocation of capital puts us in the unique position of being able to invest in high-value growth through the cycle, and consistently deliver superior cash returns to shareholders.”

Rio’s iron ore business was the company’s major earner in 2017, delivering earnings of $US6.69 billion.

The company’s Silvergrass iron ore operation was one of its key growth projects for the year. Commissioned in fourth quarter 2017, Silvergrass adds 10 million tonnes (Mt) of annual capacity to the iron ore business.

Also in the Pilbara, the automation of Rio’s train system in the region is on track to be completed by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Rio expects to launch the Amrun bauxite operation in the first half of 2019, with construction of the project on schedule.

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