Global miner Rio Tinto reported a 23 percent slide in half-year profit on Thursday, its worst second-half profit in three years, dented by a sharp drop in iron ore prices, but the result beat analysts' forecasts.

Rio said it believed the commodity price recovery would continue in 2010, showing its confidence in the outlook by declaring its first dividend in a year, although this was lower than some analysts had expected.

July-December underlying earnings before one-offs fell to $3.733 billion from $4.829 billion a year earlier, compared with analysts' forecasts of $3.08 billion on Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Rio, the world's no.3 miner behind BHP Billiton and Brazil's Vale , is back on track for growth having halved its $40 billion debt through a rights issue and asset sales after scrapping a planned tie-up with China's Chinalco.

Rio shares have fallen more than 9 percent this year, and last week hit a 13-week low. BHP shares are down 7.5 percent in 2010.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)