Miner and commodities trader Glencore (LON: GLEN) has deferred making a decision on whether to go ahead with the proposed 2020 cash distribution as risks associated with a global recession and massive demand shock loom.
The Switzerland-based company had announced plans to reward investors with $2.6 billion in cash distribution this year, or $0.20 per share. Instead, it said it was taking “prudent” action to protect and strengthen its capital structure amid the current period of heightened uncertainty.
Glencore warned that while there were currently no risks of material production disruption owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the situation could rapidly change.
The firm also extended its current credit facilities to protect its capital structure and generate free cash flow.
Tuesday’s announcement makes Glencore the first major diversified miner to take such a step in respect of capital returns. Others, such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, have not commented on changes to dividends or disruption to other kinds of capital returns.
A decision on resuming the payout would be made later in the year, Glencore said.
The news comes at a difficult time for the company. It reported in February its first annual net loss since 2015, as it had to take a $2.8 billion impairment charge to reflect the closure of its African copper business.
It also follows an audit overview of the firm’s 2019 annual report in which examiners found potentially “relevant facts” that may help authorities progress on the multiple, but separate alleged corruption and bribery allegations targeting the company.
Last week, it halted a number of smaller mines due to government restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
While today’s announcement will be painful for investors, analysts believe it reflects a situation that is not nearly as bad as 2015, when top miners, particularly Glencore and Anglo American, were frantically trying to pay down debt while their share prices nosedived.