Wednesday 3 August 2016 1:11 pm

Rio Tinto share price falls as first half profits nearly halve

Shares in Rio Tinto fell 0.70 per cent to 2,424.50p per share today, after the miner's first-half profit fell to its weakest in 12 years.

The figures:

Rio's underlying earnings tumbled 47 per cent year-on-year in the first half to $1.56bn, from $2.92bn. This beat analysts' forecasts of around $1.46bn.

Its efforts to shrink net debt also exceeded expectations, falling six per cent to $12.9bn from $13.8bn during this period.

But its ordinary dividend per share plunged 58 per cent to 45 US cents, down from 107.5 US cents.

Why it's interesting:

Rio Tinto is struggling amid the commodities rout, which has weighed on the prices of copper, iron ore and coal.

New chief executive, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, said today that he was focused on shoring up the firm by cost cutting and did not deliver am optimistic outlook for the metals markets.

"We expect market conditions to remain challenging and volatile," he told Reuters.

Jacques, who took over from Sam Walsh after he retired on 1 July, is widely expected to deliver a plan to grow in the future. This puts him at odds with rivals, such as BHP Billiton and Anglo American, who are narrowing their focus.

What Rio Tinto said:

"The credit-fuelled bounce in Chinese construction activity has had a positive impact on commodity markets in the first half of 2016, but its impact has been uneven, benefiting most steel raw materials," Rio Tinto said today.

It continued: "This has pulled prices up from the multi-year lows seen as the start of the year, as markets continue to rebalance."

"Growth in China has stabilised, but it is on a long transition path of slower and less commodity-intensive growth."

"Meanwhile, the global economy seems stuck in a subdued low-productivity growth pattern which would indicate that continued caution is required for the second half."

What the analysts said:

Broker Investec said: "A good first half result, ahead of consensus expectations, with new CEO maintaining the same mantra set by his predecessor – value to shareholders – with “unrelenting” focus on cost reductions."

Its peer Shore Capital added: "Decent half half 2016 results, in our opinion; guidance generally reiterated expect that copper cut significantly."