Antofagasta wary of US-China trade war despite strong results

Los Pelambres, located 240 km north-east of Santiago, is Antofagasta’s flagship operation. (Image courtesy of Minera Los Pelambres)

Chilean miner Antofagasta Plc. (LON: ANTO) said Thursday it was striving to offset the impact of lower copper prices, which have fallen 4% this year, due to uncertainties brought by the US-China trade war.

Despite the challenges, the FTSE 100 company, majority-owned by Chile’s Luksic family, reported a 44% increase in first-half earnings to $1.3 billion, up from $904.2 million last year.

Despite the challenges, the Chilean copper miner reported a 44% increase in first-half earnings

The miner, which has focused on controlling costs since the onset of tensions between Washington and Beijing, expects copper output to decline in 2020, dropping closer to 2018 levels.

The company attributed the forecast production drop on lower grades at its Centinela mine, which began churning out copper in 2001 and has 49 years of mine life remaining, but said the fall should be partially reversed in 2021.

“Antofagasta remains the best positioned of the European copper pure plays,” BMO Capital Markets’ analyst, Edward Sterck, wrote in a note to investors.

“Its strong balance sheet, quality of assets and operational performance, along with consistently high shareholder returns over time, justifies its higher price compared with its peers,” he said.

Copper miners in mature markets, particularly in Chile, the world’s top producer of the red metal, have seen production costs rise as they need to dig deeper and process larger amounts of rock to obtain the same amount of copper they used to a decade ago.

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