UPDATE: 6:50 a.m. EST — Hours after it announced its financial results for 2015, Rio Tinto's stock on the London Stock Exchange was trading down 3.8 percent, while the overall index was up over 0.3 percent.
Global mining giant Rio Tinto Group, hit by a rout in commodities, reported a net loss of $866 million for 2015, compared with $6.53 billion in profits reported a year earlier. Underlying earnings, which exclude one-time costs, fell 51 percent to $4.5 billion in 2015, from $9.3 billion in 2014.
Even though the company held its dividend payment at $2.15 a share for 2015, it warned that the dividend payout this year could drop to $1.10 a share. In doing so, the company joins the ranks of rivals Vale and Glencore that have trimmed dividend payments to offset the impact of shrinking profits.
“Over the past five years we have returned more than $25 billion to our shareholders, underlining our commitment to shareholder returns. However, with the continuing uncertain market outlook, the board believes that maintaining the current progressive dividend policy would constrain the business and act against shareholders’ long-term interests,” Rio Tinto Chairman Jan du Plessis said, in a statement. “We are therefore replacing the progressive dividend policy with a more flexible approach that will allow the distribution of returns to reflect better the company’s position and outlook.”
In addition to cooling demand in China, Rio Tinto’s net earnings were weighed down by impairment charges of $1.8 billion against an African iron-ore project and uranium assets, as well as $3.3 billion in foreign exchange and derivatives losses.
“The continued deterioration in the macro environment has generated widespread market uncertainty. We are embarking on a new round of proactive measures to cut our operating costs by a further $1 billion in 2016 followed by an additional goal of $1 billion in 2017,” du Plessis said, in the statement.
Rio Tinto’s shares on the S&P ASX 200 index in Australia closed down 1.25 percent Thursday, while the overall index was up nearly 1 percent. So far this year, the company’s shares have dropped 8.5 percent in Australia and 10.8 percent in London.