February 16, 2016 / 7:55 AM / 4 years ago

Anglo American to sell iron ore unit, profits plunge

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Global miner Anglo American (AAL.L)(AGLJ.J) said on Tuesday it plans to sell its iron ore unit, as part of a sweeping strategic overhaul to cope with commodities rout that has triggered a fight for survival even among heavyweights.

The global commodity rout, which has seen crude oil and copper prices hit multi-year lows this year, has forced Anglo and its peers to sell assets and cut dividends and capital spending to preserve cash and reduce debt.

Anglo, which reported a 55 percent drop in underlying core profit, or EBIT, owns about 70 percent of Kumba Iron Ore (KIO)(KIOJ.J), Africa’s biggest miner of the steel-making ingredient.

“The company has initiated a review to consider options to exit from KIO at the appropriate time, including a potential spin-out,” Anglo said in statement.

Johannesburg-listed shares in the Anglo, the world No. 5 mining company by value, jumped more than 7 percent, reversing earlier losses, to 96.14 rand by 0926 GMT.

Anglo said underlying earnings before interest and tax fell 55 percent to $2.2 billion from $4.9 billion a year earlier.

The firm had been expected to post annual earnings before interest and tax of $1.5 billion, according to Thomson Reuters analysts’ forecasts, down 70 percent year-on-year.

Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday downgraded Anglo, citing expected lower commodity prices and doubts over how long it would take the company to pay down debt.

Rival Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) on Thursday scrapped its generous payout policy in the face of a bleak outlook for the global economy after it slumped to a net loss for 2015 and posted its worst underlying earnings in 11 years.

Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing James Macharia

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