Rio Tinto hit iron ore targets while prices were up in 2016

 
Courtney Goldsmith
Follow Courtney
In 2016, the price of iron ore doubled the record low price from December 2015
In 2016, the price of iron ore doubled the record low price from December 2015 (Source: Getty)

Rio Tinto stepped up production while prices were up in 2016, according to its fourth quarter production results.

The figures

The global mining firm's iron ore shipments of 327.6m tonnes were in line with revised guidance, up three per cent from 2015. In 2017, the company expects to ship 330m to 340m tonnes of iron ore.

Aluminium production was up 10 per cent on the previous year with record production, while bauxite, a type of aluminium ore, exceeded targets as production hit a record high of 47.7m tonnes.

Copper production was four per cent higher but fell short of reduced expectations in 2016.

Targets for production and shipments in 2017 remain unchanged.

Investors had hoped for more: shares were down 1.56 per cent at 3,433.5p in lunchtime trading.

Read more: Rio Tinto unveils $3bn debt reduction plan

Why it's interesting

Iron ore, Rio Tinto's biggest earner, beat forecasts last year when prices doubled to $80 per tonne, led by booming demand from China's steel mills. Reuters reported analysts doubt the prices will remain high over 2017.

Prices of copper and aluminium were also on the rise in 2016, lifting 25 and 12 per cent respectively.

Two fund managers told Reuters the performance of Rio Tinto, the world's second-largest mining company, could prompt its board to consider boosting shareholders' returns, including buybacks.

Rio Tinto is forecast to report net profit of $4.6bn (£3.82bn) for 2016 and pay out at least $1.10 per share.

What Rio Tinto said

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said,

Our disciplined approach remains in place in 2017, with the continued focus on productivity, cost reduction and commercial excellence. This will ensure that we continue to deliver value for our shareholders.

Related articles