Rio Tinto gives back billions to shareholders in a wave of resources cash

Automated wheel changer. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto posted underlying earnings for the half year of $US3.94 billion ($A4.94 billion) and decided to give back $US3 billion ($A3.7 billion) to shareholders.

Earnings were up 152% as surging commodity prices flushed cash through the big miner. Rio almost doubled the net cash it generated in the six months to $US6.3 billion ($A7.9 billion).

The $US3 billion return to shareholders is made up of the 2017 interim dividend of 110 US cents per share, a jump of 144% and equivalent to a total $US2 billion payout, plus a $US1 billion share buyback.

The payout represents 75% of first half underlying earnings.

“Today we have announced total cash returns to shareholders of $US3 billion,” says CEO J-S Jacques.

“By driving performance, focusing on cash and allocating it with discipline we are delivering superior cash returns to our shareholders.

“These are strong results: operating cash flow was $US6.3 billion and we met our $US2 billion cash cost reduction target six months early.

“We are now shifting gear to focus on the untapped value from our productivity program and continue to strengthen our portfolio to build higher returns for the future.”

Sales revenues of $US19.3 billion were $3.8 billion higher than 2016 first half due to higher average commodity prices.

Net debt fell by $US2 billion to $US7.6 billion.

Revenue from iron ore, Rio’s biggest earner was $US8.76 billion for the half year, up from $6.33 billion in the same six month in 2016.

Overall, the effect of all price movements on the miner’s commodities was to increase underlying earnings by $2.74 billion ($A3.4 billion) compared with the 2016 first half.

The numbers in detail:

Source: Rio Tinto