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AngloGold Ashanti moots higher dividend

As gold price boosts earnings.
AngloGold Ashanti CEO Kelvin Dushnisky said. Image: Guillermo Gutierrez, Bloomberg

AngloGold Ashanti said on Friday it would consider paying a higher annual dividend after reporting a more than 200% jump in first-half earnings, driven by higher gold prices and a weaker local currency.

AngloGold, which has operations in Australia, Brazil and Tanzania, said its headline earnings per share for the six months ended June rose 234% to 97 cents against 29 cents a year earlier, despite output disruptions caused by Covid-19.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation climbed 59%.

“Cash flows are extremely robust, demonstrating the significant operating leverage we have to this strong gold price,” Chief Executive Kelvin Dushnisky said.

Dushnisky, who steps down in September, said the company would focus on cutting costs and capital management as it seeks to widen margins and increase reserves through exploration and expansions.

Spot gold has roared past $2,000 an ounce for the first time, giving South African gold miners a lifeline after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

AngloGold, which pays an annual dividend of 10% of its free cash flow before growth capital, said free cash flow had increased more than four-fold to $324 million.

“If gold prices stay at these levels, and we continue to manage our margins well and we continue to generate increasing free cash flow, we will see increased dividends,” Dushnisky said in an interview.

If prices remained supportive and the company strengthens its balance sheet, the board could also consider changing its dividend policy, Dushnisky said.

The bullion miner, which is completing the sale of its last South African assets, said it had lost around 85,000 ounces of output due to Covid-19, with 63,000 ounces of that from South Africa.

Production during the period was 1.469 million ounces compared to 1.554 million ounces for the first six months of last year.

Dushnisky said the board was considering moving its primary listing from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange but its current focus was navigating the pandemic.

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I may sound like a socialist after this, but we need a different system.

When companies and by extension its employees are in trouble (banking crisis, virus, drought, collapse in prices, whatever), taxpayers bail them out.

When companies do well, they incur huge debts to buy back shares and pay dividends and obscene bonuses. Management and shareholders did nothing to increase the gold price, it is an externality much like tax. Paying shareholders and management extra for an increase in an externality is not logical. Or, as logical as taxpayers bailing out companies.

There needs to be a system of mandatory cash-backed reserves similar to the rehabilitation funds the mines are supposed to have in place. Then, when times are tough, draw down on that, not the long-suffering taxpayers!

I am tired of the one-way bet that capitalism has become

Now that they have sold out of South Africa they should have a decent future.

End of comments.

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