* H1 group EBITDA falls 41 pct, in line with forecasts
* Costs meet guidance, to ease in H2
By Clara Ferreira-Marques
LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Kazakhmys said an outright sale of its 26 percent stake in rival Kazakh copper miner ENRC has become less likely, given uncertain equity markets.
London-listed Kazakhmys, which reported a drop in first-half earnings on Thursday, is the largest single shareholder in ENRC, its stake a leftover from a takeover effort pre-dating its rival’s listing in 2007.
Kazakhmys, the world’s 10th-largest copper miner, is trying to decide what to do with the ENRC stake and chief executive Oleg Novachuk said in March that the miner was “closer than last year” to making a decision.
On Thursday he said Kazakhmys was less likely to sell the stake because miners’ share prices have fallen.
“If we see that the value is something that we can maximise, yes, but nowadays, if you see the share prices of all mining companies are depressed - maybe at this time it is difficult to say we are closer (to a sale),” Novachuk said.
“If we are talking about a sale on the market, maybe it is not the best time.”
Trader Glencore was forced in June 2011 to deny it was considering an offer for ENRC, which many market commentators and industry sources speculated could involve the Kazakhmys stake.
“We are monitoring the situation, constantly assessing options, but we have not had an offer to sell the stake. We had some meetings, some discussions, but we never got the offer,” Novachuk said, adding the meetings had been with “many partners” and not only Glencore.
Kazakhmys said headline profit more than halved in the first six months of the year, weighed down by a combination of falling metal prices, high Kazakh labour costs and congestion on Chinese railways that caused a build-up of inventory.
The miner said underlying profit fell almost 65 percent to $307 million. Its group core profit, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) including income from its stake in ENRC, fell almost 41 percent to $949 million.
Kazakhmys remained bullish on copper demand but, like other miners in Kazakhstan battling the oil industry for workers, it has struggled with spiralling labour inflation and costs rose again in the half-year. The cash cost per pound of copper rose to $1.71 from $0.93, in line with guidance even with the hit from the Chinese transport hiccups which held back sales.
The miner, pushing through $150 million of savings that will include cutting back jobs and improving recovery rates, said pressures were easing.
It expects cash costs of $1.60-$1.90 per pound for the year.
Kazakhmys shares were down 0.4 percent at 702 pence, underperforming a 1 percent rise in the sector at 0838 GMT.