February 16, 2016 / 7:51 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 3-Anglo American looks to cut debt through asset sales

* Anglo weighs sale of Kumba, nickel, coal assets

* Anglo aims to raise $4 bln asset sales in 2016 to pay debt

* Aims to cut debt to $10 bln by year-end (Adds job cuts, details on rivals)

By Zandi Shabalala

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Anglo American said on Tuesday it plans to sell its iron ore, coal and nickel units as part of a sweeping strategic overhaul to cope with a commodities rout that has triggered a fight for survival even among heavyweight miners.

The global mining group plans to concentrate on its De Beers diamond business as well as platinum and copper operations as it dumps loss-making bulk commodities.

Anglo, the world’s fifth-biggest diversified global mining group by value, wants to raise as much as $4 billion from the sale of assets in 2016 to cut net debt to under $10 billion by the end of the year.

“We are taking decisive action to sustainably improve our cash flows and materially reduce net debt, while focusing on our most competitive assets,” said Anglo Chief Executive Mark Cutifani.

The company plans to retain only 16 core assets from 45 previously and expects to shed 78,000 jobs from a workforce of around 128,000, mostly through asset sales.

The global commodity rout, which has seen crude oil and copper prices hit multi-year lows, has forced Anglo and rivals to sell assets and cut dividends and capital spending to preserve cash and reduce debt.

However, analysts said it might be hard to find buyers for assets in the current circumstances.

“We suggested in May last year that Anglo should exit its iron ore portfolio, sadly it is now doing so in a considerably weaker commodity price environment,” Investec said in a note.

Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday downgraded Anglo further into “junk” territory, citing expected lower commodity prices and doubts over how long it would take the company to pay down debt.

Anglo said underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell 55 percent to $2.2 billion, but that was better than a $1.5 billion estimate in Thomson Reuters poll of analysts. Anglo has already suspended its dividend.

The company booked a $5.7 billion impairment on assets due to worsening market conditions including a $2.5 billion charge for its Minas-Rio iron ore project in Brazil.


Anglo is not alone in feeling the pinch of tumbling commodity prices.

Rival Rio Tinto last week broke with its policy of raising dividends after slumping to a net loss for 2015, while BHP Billiton is expected to report a first net loss in more than 16 years later this month.

Anglo shares — which are down about two-thirds over the last year — fell 6 percent in London, reversing earlier gains in volatile trade.

The company also plans to scale down its capital expenditure this year to less than $3.0 billion, 25 percent lower than 2015.

Anglo owns about 70 percent of Kumba Iron Ore (KIO) , Africa’s biggest miner of the steel-making ingredient, which is valued at $4.6 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data. Anglo said it had begun a review to consider options to exit from KIO.

Battered by softer commodity prices due to a supply glut and a slowdown in demand from top consumer China, KIO is cutting jobs and closing mines to stay afloat. Its share price has dropped by 90 percent from 2013 peaks.

Anglo is considering the sale of its nickel and coal assets in addition to previously announced sale of the niobium and phosphates businesses.

Anglo also said it would review its options on the ill-fated Rio-Minas project after three years.

Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing James Macharia and Keith Weir

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