January 27, 2009 / 1:08 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 2-Aquarius Platinum sees H1 loss of $75-$85 mln

(Adds analyst comment, updates shares)

LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - South African-focused Aquarius Platinum Ltd AQP.LAQJ.J expects a first-half, after-tax loss of $75 million to $85 million due to weak metals prices, it said on Tuesday.

By 1533 GMT, its shares were down 8.7 percent to 162 pence, underperforming a 2.2 percent fall in the UK mining index .FTNMX1770.

The expected loss for the December half includes a $20 million writedown for the temporary closure of its Everest mine in South Africa, it said.

Aquarius posted a 26 percent rise in net profit to $236 million in the year to end-June 2008.

“The deterioration in earnings has been attributable in the main to the continued decline in metal prices during the second quarter, particularly rhodium which fell 54 percent and nickel which fell 27 percent,” Chief Executive Stuart Murray said in a statement.

Aquarius said it was conducting “impairment testing” of the carrying value of other assets at year’s end, so the actual first-half results may change.

“A good performance on both volume and costs at key operations, however the release also includes a profit warning,” said analyst Michael Rawlinson at Liberum Capital.

“Given that we see further significant decline in PGM (platinum group metals) prices as unlikely, we see asymmetrical risk and a stronger probability of an upside adjustment going forward.”

The spot price of platinum XPT= slid 55 percent during the second half of 2008, but has stabilised since the start of 2009, rising 2 percent.

Aquarius AQP.AX said attributable production of platinum group metals for the three months to December rose 2.7 percent to 131,843 ounces.

Cash costs at all of its operations in South Africa have fallen, mainly due to higher volumes, but declining prices of mine inputs such as steel, fuel and explosives were expected to result in lower future costs. (Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Andrew Macdonald)

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