Photo: Reuters
JOHANNESBURG – Impala Platinum (Implats) shares rallied more than 9 percent to their highest level in three years yesterday as the world's second-biggest platinum producer posted interim results boosted by strong metal prices and a weaker rand in the half year to December.

Impala Platinum's share price closed 9.45 percent higher at R60.20 on the JSE yesterday.

The share has gained 210.38percent in the past six months as record rhodium and palladium prices coupled with the weaker rand have helped improve the fortunes of South Africa's platinum producers.

Implats chief executive Nico Muller said the primary focus of the company was to cut loss-making ounces.

“It is not our intention to revise the strategic direction based on short-term variations to market conditions,” Muller said.

“We will continue along our path, and hopefully use the improved market conditions to exercise whatever optionality we have on Rustenburg that includes a change in timing on various commercial assets."

Implats reiterated its commitment to the Rustenburg restructuring shrugging off the improved numbers that have seen it cutting net debt to R976billion from R3.8bn and swinging to an R2.23bn headline profit from an R150million losses in the previous comparative period.

Net cash from operations increased by R7.16bn, from a cash outflow of R1.14bn during the comparable period to a cash inflow of R6.02bn.

The company last year announced that it planned to reduce the mining footprint to six operating shafts from 11, resulting in around 13000 jobs cuts in Rustenburg.

It also said that it planned to limit production to 520000 platinum ounces from 750000 platinum ounces a year by 2021 at Rustenburg due to the low price environment.

The price environment has since changed with rhodium increasing by $745 (R10340) an ounce in 2018, closing the year at $2460 an ounce.

Palladium ended the year at $1270 an ounce, 19percent higher than the opening London Bullion Market trade price, and on average traded at $1031 an ounce over the year, the company said.

Muller said Implats would also consider third-party sales of the assets with some of the Rustenburg assets, adding the company was selling the sale of Shaft 1, which had a limited life.

“Given the short life at Shaft 1, we have not attracted the interest of significant players in the market.

"It is very likely we will adopt an outsource model as opposed to outright disposal,” he said.

"It is contractor firms that have expressed interest in the asset."

Other financial highlights included the group's liquidity headroom improvement by R4.2bn to R10.4bn. The company swung to an R2.23bn headline profit in the six months to December from an R150m loss in the comparative period.

The company reported an improved safety record as one employee died on duty in the period under review compared to six in the comparative period.

The company also said that it was actively participating with the other partners in a definitive feasibility study for the Waterberg mine in Limpopo.

Implats purchased a 15percent stake in the Waterberg project for $30m and has the option to increase the stake to 50.01percent, or enter into a concentrate off-take agreement only.