Rio Tinto on track to deliver sustainable returns to shareholders

riotinto1Rio Tinto’s transformation into a more streamlined, accountable business is gathering momentum, with a promise for sustainable cash returns to be delivered to shareholders next year.

At an investor seminar in Sydney, Rio Tinto also underlined its commitment to capital discipline and shareholder value, confirming it will focus only on the projects with the highest returns to drive shareholder value. The Group’s world-class portfolio of high-quality assets, with industry-leading EBITDA margins and potential for growth, are positioned to generate strong free cash flow.

Rio Tinto also revealed fresh detail around the compelling investment fundamentals for the expansion of its flagship Australian iron ore operations, with the Pilbara expansion to 360 million tonnes a year delivering an internal rate of return (IRR) of 40 per cent with a five-year payback period.

Reinforcing the focus on productivity and driving value from its iron ore assets in the Pilbara, Rio Tinto today announced deferment of the investment decision on its proposed billion-dollar greenfield mine Silvergrass until at least the third quarter of 2015 at the earliest. However, the originally forecast production – the delivery of 330 million tonnes in 2015 and 350 million tonnes by 2017 – remains unchanged with the extra production coming from brownfields, debottlenecking and productivity across the Pilbara mine network.

The ramp-up to 360 tonnes will create the best value for Rio Tinto shareholders. The iron ore operations are one of the most attractive businesses in the world, not just in the mining sector, but across all industries. For almost 50 years, the Pilbara assets have produced an average EBITDA margin of 50 per cent and the 360 project positions the business for industry-leading returns over the long term. Shareholders stand to benefit from the very considerable value that this will generate.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said “Our commitment to our shareholders is to deliver sustainable cash returns to shareholders through the cycle. We will deliver this thanks to our superior portfolio of tier one assets, an unrelenting focus on financial discipline and our unquestionable operating and commercial expertise, founded on a culture of safety and integrity.

“The delivery of our progressive dividend is a key commitment. Looking out over the next five years, we expect to generate strong free cash flow and we remain committed to materially increase cash returns to shareholders in a sustainable way. I look forward to announcing this at our annual results in February next year.

“We aim to deliver best-in-class returns by operating in the most attractive long-term sectors with assets that enable us to be the most competitive in the industry, complemented by a strong balance sheet. Rio Tinto stands apart from its competitors with its strategic approach, well placed to thrive in times of volatility and deliver value and growth through the cycle.

“We are transforming our business into a more streamlined, accountable organisation by delivering on our promises. Capex is down 34 per cent on last year, yet we expect copper equivalent growth of 5.2 per cent a year to 2019 as we invest your dollars in only those projects with the best returns.

“While the long-term outlook remains sound, the near term is undoubtedly more challenging. However Rio Tinto is soundly positioned to prosper against this backdrop of uncertainty because the current dynamics play to our strengths and our competitive advantages come into their own.”