Antofagasta’s earnings stoke dividend hike

CHILEAN miner Antofagasta yesterday more than doubled its dividend, sending its shares on a sharp upwards spike.

Profits at the FTSE 100-listed miner rose despite lower copper prices, as the company set a 2012 total dividend of 98.5 cents a share, up from 44 cents in the previous year.

This includes a special dividend of 77.5 cents, equivalent to a shareholder payout of $971.1m (£651m).

Over the year, Antofagasta posted record copper production of just under 710,000 tonnes, ahead of initial forecasts, boosted by an increase in output from its flagship Esperanza mine.

Copper production in 2013 is expected to be broadly flat on last year, with an increase in output from Esperanza offset by a decrease in grade from the Los Pelambres mine.

Antofagasta said yesterday that a review of the Antucoya project continued – it halted development at the $1.7bn copper mine in December, blaming escalating costs – though its “conservative” assessment of the operations had prompted the miner to take a $500m impairment on the value of the asset – $350m for the group, based on Antofagasta’s majority share.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation came in at $6.7bn over the year, up from $6.1bn in 2011.

Revenue came in at a record $6.7bn, up 10.9 per cent year on year, despite a near 10 per cent drop in the copper price.

Shares closed up 3.11 per cent at 1,129p yesterday, making it one of the biggest risers on the blue chip index.