The world’s biggest iron ore miner, Vale SA, reported a net loss of $8.57 billion for the fourth quarter Thursday amid decreasing iron ore, coal and nickel prices, heavy write-downs, and the rupture of one of its jointly run dams in Brazil last year. The latest loss posted by the Brazilian company is the fifth in the past six quarters, as prices fell just as the company was trying to invest heavily in large projects, Reuters reported Thursday.
The Rio de Janeiro-based company’s adjusted earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation and amortization declined 36 percent from a year earlier and stood at $1.39 billion, Bloomberg reported, adding that the company was trying to reduce output from lower-quality facilities to replace it with other productive projects. However, according to the Bloomberg report, the company still manages production that is near record levels as compared to the global supply.
While Vale, BHP Billiton Ltd, and Rio Tinto, the three dominant iron ore manufacturers, continue expansions, an estimate from Morgan Staley, cited by Bloomberg, stated that the industry woes were expected to last until at least 2020.
“The cost reductions on iron ore are coming across nicely,” Christian Georges, an analyst at Societe Generale SA, said Thursday, according to Bloomberg. He added it was “very good news indeed, because the outlook for iron ore price looks pretty difficult.”
According to a report by Reuters, the company said that it remains competitive with a production cost of $11.9 a tonne, excluding royalties, despite iron ore prices plummeting to $37 a tonne in late 2015. However, the report added that impairments amounting to $9.37 billion, mostly on coal and nickel assets, caused trouble for the company. Reuters analysts had estimated a loss of $56 million.
David Wang, a Chicago-based analyst with Morningstar Investment Services Inc., cited weakening demand for steel by Chinese buyers as a factor for the weak iron ore outlook.
“What we really see across the mining space is cost cutting by everybody,” Wang said, according to Bloomberg, adding: “Vale’s in somewhat of a special situation because its new project should be lower in average cost than its existing capacity, which would help bring costs down more than average.”
Vale CFO Luciano Siani Pires said in a video, according to Bloomberg: “For 2016, Vale’s objective is to continue becoming increasingly competitive and generate cash in this scenario of challenging prices and conclude investments.”