Anglo American not selling assets any more as it returns to profit

What a difference a year has made for Anglo American (LON:AAL), the world's number five diversified miner, which joined BHP Billiton Tuesday in lifting the mining industry spirits by postings results that clearly signal the long-awaited recovery is already here.

Only a year ago the company unveiled details of a radical “portfolio restructuring,” which included the sale of its coal, iron ore, manganese and nickel assets to focus only on copper, diamonds and platinum, in order to weather a deep rout in commodity prices and cut down debt.

The miner, which posted its first annual net profit in five years, is keeping its Kumba Iron Ore division as well as the coal mines that were on the chopping block.

Fast-forward 12 months and the miner not only has posted its first annual net profit in five years, but chief executive Mark Cutifani has also announced there is no need to offload any more assets, even the iron ore, coal and nickel operations he had declared non-core.

“The decisive and wide-ranging operational, cost, capital and portfolio actions we set out in 2016 . . . have enabled us to reduce net debt by 34 per cent,” Cutifani said when releasing preliminary full-year results. “We do not need to sell assets to address balance sheet issues,” he added. “It’s done.”

The change in strategy means Anglo American is keeping its operations in South Africa, where Ernest Oppenheimer founded it 100 years ago, despite increasing costs and political uncertainty in the nation, Africa’s largest economy.

It also means it won’t be such a "different company" from what it was before it put dozens of units on the block. Even with just $1.8 billion fetched with all the sales last year (less than half the original target), Anglo's net debt has fallen by one third to $8.5bn from $11.7bn six months ago, or 1.4 times Ebitda.

And while it’s not back to paying dividend just yet, the miner expects to resume it by the end of its 2017 financial year, when it's looking to return 30% to 40% of earnings to shareholders.

Investors have compensated the company’s performance so far. The stock, which was the worst performer in the FTSE 100 in 2015, has now almost tripled in value over the past 12 months.