JOHANNESBURG –Listed Platinum Group Metals (PGM) producer Northam Platinum yesterday flagged that its first-half operating profits were expected to climb to a record R1billion for the six months to December 2018.

The company said the hike would see the group recording a 204.3 percent boost from the R338.8million in the same period a year earlier.

It said revenue had surged by 48.6percent to R5bn from R3.4bn in the same period last year, driven primarily by higher volumes.

Chief executive Paul Dunne said that the strong financial performance was underpinned by Northam’s on-track growth and diversification strategy.

The group said earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) were expected to increase to R1.1bn for the interim period from R532.8m, representing an Ebitda margin of 22.6 percent.

Northam, which operates the Zondereinde mine near Thabazimbi in Limpopo, also reported a 40.5percent surge in 4E ounce sales volumes.

Northam has set its sights on becoming a 1million ounces a year producer. It has previously committed itself to avoid chasing production for the sake of size alone.

However, unit cash costs per platinum ounce increased 5.5 percent to R22007 from R20851 an ounce in the same period last year.

Northam has been on an acquisition spree. It acquired the ground adjacent to Zondereinde’s western boundary from Anglo American Platinum for R1bn, providing Zondereinde with additional Merensky and UG2 resources that the company plans to developed cheaply.

 Zondereinde’s life expectancy has been extended to more than 30 years.

Northam also acquired the mothballed Eland mining assets from Glencore for R175m.

The platinum industry is in crisis and is struggling in an over-supplied market which has resulted in a sustained decline in prices. Input costs including labour and electricity have been above inflation and resulted in losses in mines.

The Minerals Council said this week that the National Platinum Strategy for South Africa developed by the Platinum Leadership Forum aimed to address the current crisis.

The strategy also aims to prevent further erosion in the platinum industry which employs 167 835 people.

Yesterday, Northam Platinum declined 4.47percent on the JSE, to close at R49.41.