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Rio Tinto Increases Buyback, Pays Record Annual Dividend

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02/07/2018 | 07:29am CEST
   By Rhiannon Hoyle 

SYDNEY--Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) said it would buy back more stock and pay a record annual dividend as the mining company reported a 90% rise in profit for 2017.

The Anglo-Australian miner said on Wednesday it will hand shareholders a further US$1 billion via a share buyback, in addition to the US$1 billion dedicated to repurchasing shares at its fiscal half year. Rio Tinto also promised a full-year dividend of US$2.90 a share, versus US$1.70 in 2016.

The company reported a net profit of US$8.76 billion for 2017, up from US$4.62 billion the year prior. Underlying earnings, stripping out one-off items, were up 69% at US$8.63 billion, roughly in line with a US$8.71 billion median of seven analyst forecasts.

Rio Tinto is enjoying a turnaround thanks to aggressive efforts to reduce costs over the past few years and a more recent recovery in prices for commodities such as iron ore and copper. As recently as 2015, the miner recorded an annual loss and was forced to junk a prized progressive dividend policy, which promised stable or rising returns, to conserve cash.

"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," Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said.

Rio Tinto said it had boosted cash flow by US$400 million from improved productivity, despite grappling with higher raw material costs like other resources companies. Management hit a target to strip out US$2 billion in cash costs midyear, six months earlier than planned.

Rio Tinto said net debt reduced by 60% to US$3.85 billion. That took its gearing--a measure of a company's debt relative to equity--to 7% from 17% at the end of 2016.

Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at rhiannon.hoyle@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
LME ALUMINIUM CASH 0.64% 2052 End-of-day quote.-9.04%
LME COPPER CASH -0.64% 6081 End-of-day quote.-15.32%
LME ZINC CASH -2.35% 2492.5 End-of-day quote.-26.19%
RIO TINTO -1.27% 3775 Delayed Quote.-3.01%
RIO TINTO LIMITED 0.11% 74.28 End-of-day quote.-2.12%
SILVER 0.32% 15.04 Delayed Quote.-9.47%
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