Aquarius unable to profit strike woes

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PlatinumMachine Independent Newspapers File photo: Supplied

Johannesburg - Aquarius Platinum, the world’s fourth-largest platinum producer, yesterday reported a fall in quarterly revenue and core operational earnings.

Aquarius is not directly affected by the three-month strike in the platinum belt, giving it an opportunity to benefit from a shortage in supply of the precious metal. But the strike has not pushed up prices.

Yesterday Aquarius’s shares rose as much as 6.3 percent in London but analysts said that was because a record date for the $225 million (R2.4 billion) rights issue had passed, rather than because of the earnings.

The company plans to use much of the proceeds of its rights issue to repay convertible bonds.

It reported mine earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) of $11m for the quarter to March, down from $30m a year earlier.

Revenue fell to $60m from $100m a year ago. But revenue and mine Ebitda rose from the previous quarter, driven by higher output at its main Kroondal mine.

Platinum prices have not jumped even though more than half of primary platinum production has been interrupted for more than three months by the strike. Prices have risen only about 3 percent since the start of the year.

Aquarius said the average platinum group metal basket price in dollar terms was down 11 percent from a year earlier and increased 2 percent from the previous quarter.

“I think pricing was expected to benefit producers like Aquarius that aren’t affected by the strikes. That hasn’t taken place,” Panmure Gordon analyst Troy O’Dwyer said.

Aquarius was largely shielded from the strike because it signed a one-year agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers in June.

Aquarius said attributable production from operating mines remained ahead of its guidance and was in line with production in the third quarter of last year.

The Kroondal mine, a venture with Anglo American Platinum about 120km north-west of Johannesburg, accounts for about 60 percent of Aquarius’s production.

On the JSE, where Aquarius has a secondary listing, shares hit an intraday high of R4.11 before falling to close 1.27 percent higher at R4. – Karen Rebelo for Reuters

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