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Anglo American to cut costs, capex as COVID-19 reality sets in

Anglo American is looking to reduce costs and shave US$1 billion off its 2020 capex figure after COVID-19 forced the mining major to delay work on Quellaveco and lower guidance across several of its key divisions.
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Anglo American plans to reduce 2020 capex by around US$1 billion

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Lockdown measures in South Africa and resulting operational disruption saw Anglo reduce guidance for diamonds from 32-34 million carats to 25-27Mct, platinum from 2-2.2Moz to 1.5-1.7Moz, palladium from around 1.4Moz to 1-1.2Moz, iron ore from 41.5-42.5Mt and thermal coal exports from 26Mt to 22Mt.

Similar government action in Peru force Anglo to withdraw most of its 15,000 strong workforce from its Quellaveco copper project mid-March, and the company said Thursday it had decided to suspend non-critical works for "up to three months", although first production in 2022 is still achievable, it said.

BMO analyst Edward Sterck said he had already incorporated a six month delay at Quellaveco into the firm's estimates, "which allows for time needed to fully remobilise".

Pushing back work at Quellaveco will bring down 2020 capex on the project to US1.2-1.5 billion from the company's previously guided figure of US$1.5-1.7 billion.

Anglo's total capex figure for 2020 will be between US$4-4.5 billion, down from the previously guided figure of US$5-5.5 billion, said the company.

Group cost savings of US$500 million will come via a mix of lower discretionary spend and reductions to overheads, R&D and exploration spend.

RBC Capital analyst Tyler Broda said Anglo's balance sheet "remains resilient with US$14.5 billion of liquidity and the measures taken over the past 5 years to reduce higher cost assets in the portfolio leave the company in a theoretically similar margin position to major peers, with the caveat that lockdowns in Chile, Peru and South Africa are potentially having a greater impact on production".

"We continue to see strong long-term potential for Anglo American shares however today's release will likely see net consensus downgrades albeit the measures to address costs and capex will help cash flow," said Broda.

Anglo's announcement regarding the impact of COVID-19 arrived in tandem with its quarterly production figures, which Broda described as "better than expected".

"The start of a COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa had a limited impact of c.2% on Q1 production; however, refined PGMs production was significantly reduced by the announced convertor plant outage," Anglo said Thursday.

Platinum and Palladium output for Q1 were both down 7% year on year at 441,000oz and 303,000oz respectively.

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