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Hochschild joins ranks of dividend deferrals

Latin America-focused Hochschild Mining has shelved plans to pay a final dividend for 2019, pointing to “ongoing uncertainty” caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hochschild joins ranks of dividend deferrals Hochschild joins ranks of dividend deferrals Hochschild joins ranks of dividend deferrals Hochschild joins ranks of dividend deferrals Hochschild joins ranks of dividend deferrals

Hochschild's Inmaculada asset in Southern Peru

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Hochschild said operations at its Inmaculada and Pallancata mines in Peru remain suspended following the Peruvian government's decision to extend social restrictions until April 26.

Argentinian authorities have given the previous metals player permission to restart its San Jose mine, but Hochschild said restrictions on movement of people would mean ramp-up would be phased "over a number of weeks".

Hochschild's board said its decision not to pay the dividend - which at US2.3c a share would have amounted to US$12 million - was a "prudent course of action reflecting the company's focus on the conservation of cash resources".

Hochschild is the latest in a long line of miners to cancel its dividend, citing cash conservation.

Glencore deferred US$2.6 billion of dividend distributions at the end of March due to COVID-19 risk, while Freeport-McMoRan said late March its board had resolved to suspend the quarterly cash dividend of US5c per share.

Australia's Northern Star Resources has deferred payment of its interim dividend, while AIM-listed base metals producer Central Asia Metals (CAML) opted to defer its final dividend for 2019.

Analysts at Canadian bank RBC Capital called Hochschild's decision a "sensible move".

"Currently the group's operations continue to be impacted by COVID-19 induced shutdowns. This makes cash conservation the top priority for Hochschild, especially as any restart is likely to be phased over a number of weeks and the timing of this remains unclear," RBC's James Bell said in a note.

Benjamin Knott of Numis Securities conceded the dividend suspension might disappoint some in the market, but said the decision "should not come as a major surprise given that the mines have been idled for nearly a month".