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FLSmidth, Perenti suspend dividends

Denmark’s FLSmidth has added its name to the list of mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies that have suspended dividend payments and suspended 2020 financial guidance as government efforts to curb the Covid-19 spread in countries around the world make it too difficult to assess unfolding business impacts.
FLSmidth, Perenti suspend dividends FLSmidth, Perenti suspend dividends FLSmidth, Perenti suspend dividends FLSmidth, Perenti suspend dividends FLSmidth, Perenti suspend dividends

Staff reporter

"The underlying mining and cement industries remain sound but given the day-to-day development in markets around the world, we are currently unable to assess the extent of the impact," the company said.

"The activity level for the group at the beginning of 2020 was similar to 2019, and in addition we have booked three large mining orders with a combined value of around 2.4 billion Danish krone.

"We are now increasingly seeing disruptions to customers and own operations, and we see higher costs related to, amongst others, more complex logistics and a weaker fixed cost absorption. We continue the implementation of our business improvement initiatives launched last year and have taken further actions to manage the cost base, including hiring freeze, reduced capex spend and postponement of salary adjustments, etc."

FLSmidth's share price was up 7% Tuesday but has fallen 46% since the start of 2020, capitalising the company at US$1.01 billion (DKK6.98 billion).

The company said its decision to withdraw a proposed DKK8/share annual dividend was to "ensure resilience in a period of market uncertainty and to further strengthen FLSmidth's financial position".

Meanwhile, Ireland drilling products manufacturer Mincon started 2020 brightly after reporting 2019 revenue of €120.7 million and operating profit of €14.3 million - "ahead of expectations", according to supporting local stockbroker Davy - but also faces uncertain markets, according to Davy.

"Mincon's progress in early 2020 appears to be well ahead of our expectations from a sales growth perspective. However, with rising risks surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe it is too early to become more optimistic regarding forecasts," it said this week.

In Australia, mining services and drilling contractor Perenti Global has suspended its half-year interim dividend payment of A3.5c per share until October in a bid to address the potential risks of what managing director Mark Norwell called the "worst financial crisis since the 1930s".

Norwell said Perenti would "prefer to move too early than move too late", and it was taking steps now because forecasting the future was "impossible" due to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
He said the company's decision to withdraw its guidance earlier this week was "not taken lightly", nor was the decision to suspend the dividend and reactivate its dividend reinvestment plan.
 
It was examining a suite of capital management initiatives to ensure the company was in the "strongest possible financial position in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global financial impact".
 
It expects to keep A$24 million in the kitty as a result of the dividend delay that, while not material to Perenti's finances, together with other initiatives such as deferring capital and tightening fixed costs, would allow it to prepare for the "invariable upside" at the end of the crisis.
 
While it is yet to be impacted by COVID-19, Perenti has established several taskforces to manage after its staff and logistics chains, maintain operations, and maximise cash. 
 
Perenti has cash reserves $290 million, undrawn facilities of $90 million, equipment financing facilities available, and debts it expects to continue to service.
 
Operationally, Norwell said there had been no impact from its clients yet, which range from tier one clients to single-mine owners, as they continued to pay their bills, and Perenti continued to pay its own suppliers to ensure the health its supply chains.
 
Perenti was somewhat protected from a loss of contracts because it has limited exposure to exploration, which is likely to be curtailed globally, and it works primarily in ensuring the continuity of mining operations, he said.
 
The pipeline of future work appeared healthy, and Perenti submitted a new tender last week.
 
The most immediate impact might be a delay in taking over the contract at the Hemlo gold mine in Canada, which was due to start on April 1, but was not included in its financial 2020 guidance.
 
Perenti had asked among its expatriate staff for volunteers to stay at work in Africa and India, with a "good uptake". Indeed, some came back from leave early. 
 
That's despite global airline shutdowns that could leave staff in place "for months" - but the company is examining charter flight options if required after April, if global economic and other restrictions don't start improving.
 
Norwell said none of its customers had talked about mine shutdowns or suspensions so far, but that was ultimately in the hands of governments, and impossible to predict.
 
To date, the firm has seen no impact on its financial performance, although it this week withdrew its financial year guidance of an underlying net profit between $115-120 million. 
 
Downer EDI and Monadelphous Group are among others who have withdrawn guidance, and Downer delayed its $83 million interim dividend until September 
 
Perenti had been considering a bid for Downer's mining services division.
 
Shares in Perenti were up 2% to 49c in early trade, having hit its lowest level since April 2016 yesterday.
 
The company, which was trading at around $1.60 at the start of the year, was worth $336 million at today's price.