UPDATE 2-Copper lifts Anglo's quarter ahead of key review

Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:03am EDT

* Q2 Copper output climbs 14 percent

* Iron ore dips 1 percent, still suffering 2012 strike impact

* First-half earnings due July 26

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - Anglo American posted an unexpected rise in copper production in the second quarter, a bright spot in an otherwise tough three months for the miner, which is set to unveil a major strategy review next week.

When he took the reins in April, Anglo's chief executive - former AngloGold boss Mark Cutifani - began a sweeping overview of the group's underperforming businesses, down to individual mines, considering cost cuts and potential sales and partners.

Cutifani - the first executive with experience as a miner to lead the traditionally patrician Anglo American group - is expected to outline his findings when Anglo reports first-half earnings on July 26.

Though few anticipate a structural shift for the group, analysts hope Cutifani will give details of some savings and even asset sales - potentially boosting shares that have otherwise underperformed both diversified peers and the broader index so far this year. Anglo shares are trading close to their lowest point since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

"While we caution against getting carried away - it is seldom that new management can find a magic bullet that eluded the previous leadership - Mr. Cutifani has the right kind of skillset to address the operational problems that have plagued Anglo," analyst Paul Gait at Sanford Bernstein said on Thursday.

Anglo's quarterly production results showed just how tough the task ahead is for Cutifani and his team.

Anglo's copper division, the biggest earner last year after iron ore, saw production rise 14 percent to 182,900 tonnes, due to a 25 percent improvement at the troubled Collahuasi mine - owned jointly with Glencore Xstrata and a group of Japanese companies - and the ramp-up of its Los Bronces mine.

Some analysts had forecast a dip against copper production in the same quarter a year ago.

Yet Anglo said it would keep its 2013 copper target at 680,000 tonnes - remaining cautious around the recovery of Collahuasi, the world's third-largest mine, which has suffered a combination of work stoppages, heavy rains and fatal accidents.

The output of key earner iron ore, which made up almost half of 2012 profit, dipped, with unit Kumba Iron Ore recording a 1 percent fall to 11.3 million tonnes - against expectations of a small increase - as its Sishen mine battles to recover from a strike at the end of last year.

That proved a disappointment to some investors, after iron ore increases seen at producers such as BHP Billiton , which posted record production in the 12 months to June and said expansion of the division was running ahead of schedule despite weaker prices.

PLATINUM WOES

Platinum, a unit whose troubles have been a focus for Anglo and its investors, saw a 2 percent rise in production to 594,000 ounces - less than forecast due to strikes and what Anglo said was a lack of flexibility to move employees to operations where there is a skills shortage.

Platinum has been a major headache for Anglo, which is struggling to return the division to profit in the face of lacklustre demand, high costs, restive unions and political pressure to avoid job cuts. Anglo has had to temper its plans and now aims to cut 6,000 jobs and reduce platinum production by 10 percent, or 250,000 ounces, this year.

Steel-making coal for export fell 9 percent in the quarter, after production cuts in anticipation of poor market conditions. Diamonds, though, met forecasts with a 10 percent rise.

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