Strong output update delights Rio’s investors

Suzie Neuwirth

FTSE 100-listed Rio Tinto’s shares surged yesterday, after a stellar third-quarter production update that strikes an upbeat note for chief executive Sam Walsh’s first year at the helm.

The Anglo-Australian firm reported higher production numbers across most metals and minerals, as well as posting record iron ore production, shipments and rail volumes over the period.

Completion of the 290m tonnes per year expansion project at the Pilbara iron ore mine in western Australia was delivered ahead of schedule and $400m (£250m) under budget, the firm said.

Plans to ramp up iron ore production at Pilbara even further to 360m tonnes per year are still underway, despite the chief executive’s previous admission that shareholder opinion is split on the move due to the weak metal price.

Mined copper output in the third quarter went up 23 per cent year-on-year, boosted by a better-than-expected recovery of operations at the Bingham Canyon after April’s landslide. Rio Tinto lifted its full-year copper production guidance from 565,000 tonnes to 590,000 tonnes as a result of the speedy turnaround at the Utah mine.

Walsh, who replaced former chief executive Tom Albanese back in January, has implemented a swathe of cost cuts in a bid to counteract the firm’s ill-fated acquisitions frenzy under Albanese during the commodities boom.

He has cut jobs and put non-core assets on the block this year, targeting savings of over $5bn (£3.1bn) by the end of 2014.