Rio Tinto shares are falling despite the biggest dividend in the company's history

Splash by artist Tomas Misura at the Sculpture by the Sea along the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Shares in mining giant Rio Tinto fell in early trade despite a huge dividend payout to shareholders.

A short time ago, the shares were down 2% to $AU76.70.

The company announced cash returns to shareholders of $US9.7 billion ($AU12.4 billion) for the full year, including its biggest full year dividend of $US5.2 billion ($AU6.7 billion), at 290 US cents a share, and an additional share buy-back of $US1 billion added to previously announced buy-backs of $US3.5 billion ($AU4.5billion).

Underlying earnings for the year to December were up 69% to $US8.6 billion ($AU11 billion).

The results at a glance:

Source: Rio Tinto

“The strength of our cash flow is a result of resilient prices during the year coupled with a robust operational performance and a focus on mine to market productivity,” says chief executive J-S Jacques.

Sales revenue was $40 billion ($AU51 billion), up $6.2 billion ($AU7.9 billion), mainly due to higher average commodity prices.

Today iron ore prices were rallying, recording their fourth consecutive day of gains.

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