Amplats swings back to profit despite strikes, restructuring

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's largest producer of the metal, managed to report Monday a return to profit in the first half of 2013, despite strikes and disputes with unions over the company’s plans to cut 14,000 jobs.

The company, controlled by Anglo American (LON:AAL), posted profits of $125 million (1.2 billion rand) for the first six months of 2013, marking a solid rebound from a loss of 450 million rand in the same period a year ago.

Amplats’ chief executive, Chris Griffith, said warned the need to restructure the company, in terms of restoring profitability and aligning production with market demand, has not lessened.

"Although we believe that the longer term supply and demand outlook for the platinum business remains attractive, the operating environment remains difficult," he said.

“The operating environment remains difficult . . . mining inflation has remained well above the South African consumer price index and labour unrest linked to union rivalry continues to present challenges,” Griffith added.

Amplats generates about 40% of the world’s platinum productions.

The company has been in talks the South African government, resulting in a decision to escalate the announced job cuts to 6,000 to minimise the impact of loses suffered during work stoppages.

The platinum producer is set to end wage talks with unions in August. It already faces The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union demands to increase entry-level wages for underground workers by 50%.

Amplats has lost 20,000 ounces of production at its mines so far this year as a result of fresh wildcat strikes and Griffith said there could be more in the short term.