By David Winning
SYDNEY--Fortescue Metals Ltd. reported a record annual profit and raised its dividend, as it shipped more iron ore than ever before as prices of the commodity headed toward a more than six-year high.
The world's fourth-biggest exporter of iron ore reported a net profit of US$4.74 billion for the 12 months through June, up from US$3.19 billion a year earlier. Directors of the company declared a final dividend of A$1.00 (US$0.72) a share, bringing the full-year payout to A$1.76. That represents a payout ratio of 77%, at the top end of its policy to return 50-80% of net profit to shareholders.
Fortescue shipped a record 178.2 million metric tons of iron ore in the 12 months through June, benefiting from China's economic recovery after it brought a local outbreak of coronavirus under control and supply disruptions in Brazil. That was above the top end of recently revised guidance of 177.0 million tons and 6% more than a year ago.
Annual revenue rose by 29% to US$12.82 billion as Fortescue's iron ore fetched an average realized price of US$79 a ton, up from US$65 a ton in the 2019 fiscal year.
Net debt totaled US$300 million at the end of June, even as Fortescue invested in growth projects such as Iron Bridge and the Eliwana Mine and Rail Project while also introducing safety measures at its operations after the coronavirus pandemic reached Australia.
Last month, Fortescue said it expects capital spending of US$3.0 billion-US$3.4 billion this year, with more investment in the Eliwana Mine and Rail Project than originally envisaged. The Perth-based company now intends to spend US$1.325 billion-US$1.375 billion in that project, up from a prior projection of US$1.275 billion.
In the current year, Fortescue expects to ship between 175 million tons and 180 million tons of iron ore. C1 cash costs are forecast in a range of US$13.00-US$13.50 per wet metric ton, which would be higher than the average of US$12.94/ton in fiscal 2020.
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