UPDATE 2-Weak commodity prices hit Vedanta earnings, debt concerns nag

Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:27am EST

Related Topics

* First-half revenue falls 17 pct to $6.2 bln

* First-half EBITDA falls 14 pct to $2.21 bln

* Says to resume iron ore mining in Indian state of Karnataka soon

* Says working on operational turnaround of copper business in Zambia

Nov 15 (Reuters) - Vedanta Resources Plc, a London-based mining conglomerate that has most of its assets in India, reported a 14 percent fall in first-half core earnings due to weak metal and oil prices and iron ore mining bans in two Indian states.

The drop was in line with market forecasts, and the decline was less steep than that seen at many other miners.

Still, the company's shares fell as much as 10 percent as investors remained concerned about its $16.6 billion debt and ability to invest in growing its oil and gas operations.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation fell to $2.21 billion in the half year ended Sept. 30. Revenue fell 17 percent to $6.16 billion.

Vedanta, 65 percent owned by metals tycoon Anil Agarwal, said average prices fell 3 percent for zinc, 9 percent for copper, 7 percent for aluminium and 2 percent for Brent crude.

"These lower average prices across all commodities had a negative impact of $225 million on operating profit," the company said.

Operating profit was also reduced by $134 million as a result of iron ore mining bans in the Indian states of Goa and Karnataka due to environmental issues. Vedanta said it expected to restart mining in Karnataka soon.

Vedanta is one of the few diversified miners with significant oil and gas assets.

Revenue from its oil and gas business fell 10 percent to $1.47 billion although production rose 3 percent to 212,873 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOEPD).

The company said its Cairn India subsidiary was on track to hit its 2014 production target, previously put at 225,000 BOEPD.

While earnings from most of the company's commodities fell, those from zinc rose 5 percent as volumes increased from India.

Vedanta said there had been a sustained outflow of inventories, resulting in lower LME stocks that might provide support for zinc prices from now on.

Vedanta said it was committed to delivering an operational turnaround at its Zambian copper business, which had been struggling with high costs and low volumes and, more recently, a spat with the government over job cuts.

Vedanta, which completed a major restructuring earlier this year, said it had yet to hear from the Indian government on its offer to buy back the government's stake in two of its units, Hindustan Zinc and Bharat Aluminium Co (Balco).

Vedanta won the backing of its shareholders last month to offer up to $3.48 billion to buy the Indian government's minority stakes in the businesses..

The company raised its interim dividend to 22 cents per share from 21 cents a year earlier.

Vedanta shares were down 6 percent at 964.5 pence on the London Stock Exchange at 1525 GMT.

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