Kazakhmys earnings fall on lower copper price but beat forecast

Reuters - UK Focus

* Helped by tenge currency devaluation

* Average copper prices down about 8 pct from year-agoperiod

* After spin-off to produce 80,000-85,000 tonnes of copper (Adds details on EBITDA, adds bullet points)

LONDON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Copper producer Kazakhmys posted a smaller decline than expected in first-half coreprofit, as measures it took to control costs and protect marginspartly offset lower copper prices.

Like other copper miners, Kazakhmys (LSE: KAZ.L - news) is fighting againstrising production costs and falling metal grades, which togetherwith weaker prices have squeezed margins.

To do so, the Kazakh miner produced less copper in the firsthalf this year as it reduced output in higher-cost areas toprotect margins and conserve cash.

It also announced earlier this year a break-up of thecompany in an attempt to improve its performance, transferringsome of its older and costlier assets to a private company ownedby two of its shareholders.

Group core profit, or earnings before interest, tax,depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came in at $324 millionin the first half this year from $714 million a year earlier buttopped a company-provided analysts' consensus of $282 million.

Last year's EBITDA figure included some assets the companydisposed of: a 26-percent stake in mining firm ENRC, a50-percent holding in power station Ekibastuz GRES-1 and Germansemi-finished copper products business MKM.

It posted a loss before taxation of $118 million, comparedwith a $244 million loss a year earlier.

An 8 percent average drop in copper prices in the period andlower production volumes weighed on the company's bottom line,but the fall was smaller than analysts had expected.

"The results are ahead of guidance despite the lower copperprice and despite the lower sales volumes, and that's the resultof the optimisation measures we have taken (since) the secondhalf of 2013 and as we saw the benefit of the tenge devaluationcoming through," Chief Financial Officer Andrew Southam said ina call with journalists.

Kazakhmys benefited from Kazakhstan's decision to devalueits currency earlier this year, since around 60 percent of itscost base is in Kazakh tenge but its output is sold for dollars.

The company is now focusing on completion of the announcedsplit. Under the plan, it will become an initially smaller butlower-cost producer, with output of about 80,000-85,000 tonnescompared with 294,000 tonnes of copper cathode equivalentproduced in total last year.

It then aims to increase its output by 32 percent by 2018versus 2013, reaching output of about 350,000 tonnes of copperequivalent as its new projects Bozshakol and Aktogay come onstream.

The miner confirmed its cash costs estimate from the assetsit will retain at 120-140 cents per pound of copper equivalentfrom 220 cents for the group last year.

Shareholders voted in favour of the restructuring plan lastweek and completion of the split is expected by the end of 2014. (Reporting by Silvia Antonioli; editing by Jason Neely, LarryKing)

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