Antofagasta reported EBITDA (earnings) jumped 59.1% to $2.59bn last year buoyed by rising copper prices and sales which helped offset lower gold revenue. A final dividend of 40.6 cents per share was declared, bringing the total dividend for the year to 50.9 cents per share, a 177% increase compared to 2016 . Revenues increased 31.1% to $4.75bn, while operating costs, before exceptional items, rose by $218.9m to $2.32bn driven by increased costs at the mining division. Copper production decreased by 0.7% to 704,300 tonnes while copper sales rose 1.5%, compared to 2016. The fall in production was weighed by lower grades at Los Pelambres and Centinela. The LME copper price of $2.51 per pound at the beginning of 2017 rose to $3.27 per pound by year-end, averaging $2.80 per pound over the whole year, an increase of 27% compared to the previous year. Gold production fell 21.6% to 212,400 ounces while gold sales slipped 19.6% compared to 2016. The fall in production came amid lower grades at Los Pelambres and a shift to higher copper content ores at Centinela. Molybdenum production, however, was boosted by 47.9% year on year by higher grades. Group production in 2018 is expected to between 705,000 and 740,000 tonnes of copper, 190,000 to 210,000 ounces of gold and 11,500 to 12,500 tonnes of molybdenum. Copper production is expected to grow quarter-by-quarter through the year as grades improve, with approximately 45% of the year's production expected in the first half of the year. The miner reported operating cash flow generation of $2.5bn, up 71.2% from 2016 on the back of stronger margins and higher sales. Capital expenditure was up by 13.1% to $899 million amid increased capitalised stripping costs at Centinela and Antucoya, and higher sustaining capital expenditure. Chief executive Ivan Arriagada said: 'We have continued to invest through the cycle while maintaining our focus on cost discipline and operating performance. As a result, as copper prices rose in 2017 Antofagasta had another successful year completing the development of Encuentro Oxides, meeting our safety target of zero fatalities and achieving both our production and cost guidance.' 'EBITDA increased by 59% to $2.6 billion with operating cash flow rising to $2.5 billion. Testament to the improved copper market and our continuing cost management programme, our EBITDA margin rose to 54% - the highest level since 2012 when the copper price was 30% higher. As a result of this performance the Board has recommended a final dividend of 40.6 cents per share which, combined with the interim dividend, brings the total dividend for the year to 50.9 cents per share, an increase of 177% on 2016, and represents a cash payout of 67% of earnings.' 'Our priorities for 2018 are continued capital discipline and the next phase of our growth - notably the review and expected approval of the Los Pelambres Incremental Expansion project and progressing expansion plans at Centinela.'
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