Teck cuts dividend as coal continues downward slide

Teck cuts dividend as coal continues downward slideAs weak commodity prices continue to hammer the mining sector, Vancouver-based Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.A,TCK.B)(NYSE:TCK) is cutting its dividend to shareholders from $0.45 per share to $0.15 starting June 15.

The company, which released the dividend announcement and its first quarter report April 21, says slashing the dividend by two-thirds will allow it to keep generating positive cash flow.

“Our ongoing focus on cost management and operational performance, aided by the strong U.S. dollar, is enabling our diversified business to withstand the generally weak commodity price environment,” said Don Lindsay, Teck’s president and CEO, in a release.

Like other producers of metallurgical coal Teck has been hit hard by the falling prices of coal brought on by oversupply and low demand from China. But unlike Walter Energy, Teck has managed to keep all of its operating mines open. In 2014, Alabama-based Walter Energy closed two mines in Northeastern B.C.

In December 2014, Teck reported its profits attributable to shareholders dropped 55% compared with 2013. Prices for copper and zinc, Teck’s other main products, have also been low.

For the first quarter of 2015, Teck is reporting first quarter profit attributable to shareholders of $64 million, compared with $105 million in 2014.

The price of coal continues to decline, falling 19% compared with the first quarter of 2014. Teck attributes this drop to oversupply. The company says its cost cutting measures have resulted in mine production costs dropping 10%. The low Canadian dollar and lower oil prices are also helping to reduce costs for Teck's mines, which produced 6.8 million tonnes of coal in the first quarter.

While steelmaking coal demand from China continues to be low, the company says it is seeing stronger sales elsewhere, but does not expect prices to rise “until a better market balance is established.”

Teck recently denied it was in merger talks with British mining giant Antofagasta.

In 2013, Teck announced it would proceed ith the construction of a $13.5 billion oil sands project in Alberta (Teck’s stake of that $13.5 billion is 20%). The company says the Fort Hills project is still on track despite the plummeting price of oil that has shaken Alberta’s economy.

However, a recent economic analysis from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis was critical of that strategy, and suggested Teck should abandon a second oil sands project that is currently in the planning stages.

By Jen St. Denis | BIV.com