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Strong half-year for Vedanta

Diverse mining and energy group Vedanta Resources (LN:VED) had a positive first half of its 2018 financial year, with higher zinc and aluminium production leading to increased revenues and a higher dividend.
Strong half-year for Vedanta Strong half-year for Vedanta Strong half-year for Vedanta Strong half-year for Vedanta Strong half-year for Vedanta

A planned shutdown at Skorpion impacted International zinc output for the half-year

At Zinc India, the company produced 386,000 tonnes of refined zinc, up 53% on the year, from April to the end of September. Refined lead output at the division was 73,000t, climbing 32% year-on-year, while integrated silver production rose 30% to 8.2 million ounces. 
The miner cited ramped-up production and enhanced smelter efficiencies for the climbs. It said Zinc India's transition from openpit to underground mining was progressing on track.
Its zinc projects were advancing in line with the expectation of reaching 1.2 million tonnes per annum of mined metal capacity in its 2020 financial year. 
"When the mining expansion projects were announced in early 2013, the share of mined metal from underground mines was 15%. This increased to 52% in FY2017, and is expected to reach 80% in FY2018 and 100% in FY2019," it said.
International zinc output for the six-month period fell 9% on the year to 74,000t, due to a planned shutdown at the Skorpion plant during the June quarter, although this was somewhat offset by higher grades and recoveries at Black Mountain, where the September quarter was at a four-year high. 
The Gamsberg zinc project in South Africa was progressing well and remained on track to start production in mid-2018.
Vedanta's aluminium operations produced a record 753,000t of aluminium during the April-September period, climbing 39% on the year due to smelter ramp ups at Jharsuguda and BALCO.
The company aims to achieve aluminium nameplate capacity of 2.3 million tonnes by the 2020 financial year.
Copper cathode output in India slipped 1% to 197,000t on the planned 11-day shutdown at the Tuticorin smelter and an unplanned shutdown of four-days after a waste heat boiler leakage. 
"Copper India had stable production for the first half of the year and achieved record quarterly production in Q2 (September quarter) as a result of operational efficiencies," Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal said.
During the half-year, the Vedanta board approved the expansion of the 400,000t copper smelter at Tuticorin in southern India to 800,000t.
"Completion of this project will place Tuticorin as one of the largest single-location copper smelting complexes in the world," the chairman said.
Mined metal from Copper Zambia was down 22% at 45,000t, because of lower equipment availability at the Konkola mine and the tailings leaching plant. 
Agarwal said, despite the lower integrated production at Copper Zambia, the business had seen progressive quarterly improvements since the March 2017 quarter. 
Vedanta aims to achieve 200,000t per annum of integrated copper output at the division by 2020.
Saleable iron ore output for the six-month period fell 4% to 4.5 million tonnes, as the monsoon season reduced mining activities at Goa during the September quarter. 
Regulatory caps have also impacted iron ore output, with Vedanta looking to ramp up production to pre-ban levels without having to make any significant investments. 
Production of pig iron at the iron ore operations also dropped 19% on the year to 300,000t due to weather-related metallurgical coke supply disruptions in Australia during the June quarter and a local contractors' strike during the September quarter.
The company made no noticeable changes to full-financial year production guidance.
On the financial side, it reported a profit of US$410 million for the first half of the 2018 financial year, up 59% year-on-year. 
It refinanced $1.84 billion of debt in August, through a combination of bonds and bank loans, which Agarwal said was in line with its "stated strategic priority of maintaining a strong balance sheet".
Due to the strong half-year results, Vedanta's board recommended an interim dividend of $0.24 per share to be paid out on December 14, up from $0.20 a year ago.
"The group has consistently paid dividends to shareholders in each of the last 14 years since its listing and we endeavour to continue delivering strong shareholder returns," the chairman said.