Saudi miner Ma’aden lifts off as profits rocket

A 70 percent year-on-year increase in gold production helped boost Maaden's profit by 120 percent in the first quarter. Getty
Updated 03 May 2018
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Saudi miner Ma’aden lifts off as profits rocket

  • Profits rise on increased gold production, revenues rise 32 percent
  • Ma’aden mines gold, copper, aluminum and phosphates in Saudi Arabia

LONDON: Saudi mining company Ma’aden cheerked the market on Thursday with first quarter figures significantly ahead of analyst expectations, sending the Tadawul-listed stock 2 percent higher.

Gold was the standout feature as production rocketed to 118,000 ounces, up 70 percent year-on-year — a quarterly record.

It has been a good time to lift production of the yellow metal, seen as a hedge against global geopolitical uncertainty.

Group net profit surged over 120 percent in the first three months of 2018 against the same period in 2017, and sales were up 32 percent.

“By continuing to generate greater production from our assets whilst maintaining pressure on costs, we were able to capitalize on the generally positive commodity price environment,” said CEO Khalid Al-Mudaifer.

Ma’aden, which mines gold, copper, aluminum and phosphates — all at sites in Saudi Arabia — is ramping up production across many of its operations. Investors have piled into the shares, which trade on 25 times forward earnings making them highly-rated, but relatively expensive.

The company’s portfolio includes a joint venture with Barrick Gold of Canada.

In an interview with Arab News, Youssef Husseini, mining analyst at broker EFG Hermes in Cairo, said: “These results are exceptional with the cost profile impressive after a cost-cutting program — the margin came in 400 basis points up from where we thought.”

Al-Mudaifer pointed to a 36 percent increase in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda), a key market measure.

Ma’aden’s new phosphate operation at Wa’ad Al-Shamal was said to be progressing well as was the next phase of growth at its largest ever gold mine, the “Mansourah Massarah project”. An investment decision on further expansion was expected in the second quarter.

Commodity price volatility was forecast to be a feature of 2018 “but as the first quarter results show, we are well placed to deliver strong profitability built on the basis of strong underlying trends in our core commodities,” said Al-Mudaifer.

The only potential fly in the ointment, said Husseini, was the possibility of higher energy costs if Saudi Electricity upped its charges before the year is out. “We shall have to wait and see,” he said.

Al-Mudaifer said the first quarter saw a drop in the price of aluminum but the price trend remained favorable compared to 2016 and 2017 and “we continue to believe in the long-term fundamentals for this metal.”

He added: “Phosphate prices remained robust as did gold and copper although the latter dropped slightly in the quarter after a year of solid gains in 2017.”

Cash generated from operations was SR543 million ($144.7 million); a decrease of 28 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017, primarily due to increased working capital requirements, said the company.

Ma’aden’s liquidity position remained strong with cash and equivalents topping SR6 billion.


Australia overtakes Qatar as top global LNG exporter

Updated 10 December 2018
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Australia overtakes Qatar as top global LNG exporter

  • Australia shipped 6.79 million tons of LNG in November while Qatar exported 6.2 million tons
  • Australia has invested heavily in a number of LNG export projects over the last few years

LONDON: Australia has become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, overtaking Qatar for the first time, according to data published on Monday.

Australia shipped 6.79 million tons of LNG in November while Qatar exported 6.2 million tons, according to Refinitiv Eikon, the financial data arm of Thomson Reuters.

While LNG exports from Australia increased by more than 15 percent from the previous month, Qatar’s exports dropped by 3 percent.

Australia has invested heavily in a number of LNG export projects over the last few years. Just last month, the first LNG shipment left the country’s new offshore Ichthys project on the northwestern coast of Australia.

Analysts expect Australia will look to maintain its lead ahead of the Qataris.

“Competition between Qatar and Australia for the share of global LNG market is set to intensify further,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy’s global gas analytics in London.

“Australia has boosted its market share in recent years by bringing online a slew of LNG export projects. This is in stark contrast with the situation in Qatar where the export capacity has remained around 77 million tons per annum,” he said.

Ehsan Khoman, head of regional research and strategy at MUFG, in Dubai, said Australia has an advantage over Qatar due to it being geographically closer to major gas importers.

“The lower transportation freight costs will remain the backbone of Australia comparative advantage as an exporter vis-à-vis Qatar, given the country’s closer proximity to the largest LNG importers in Asia, namely, Japan, China and South Korea,” he said.

Rising LNG exports from US will add to the global market competition, he said.

“Going forward, the LG space is likely to undergo a major transformation driven by new supplies coming from the US, with our expectation of a three-way tug of war between the US, Australia and Qatar to intensify in the medium term for global leadership among LNG exporters, notably for a larger share of the key market in Asia.”

The data follows Qatar’s announcement last week that it would leave the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in early 2019 to focus on gas production.

Kumar said he expects Qatar to ramp up efforts to maintain its market position as competition grows from other exporters.

“Qatar has plans to vigorously defend its market share in the coming years as it is moving ahead with expanding the capacity of its Ras Laffan plant to around 110 million tons per annum by the end of 2025 or early 2026,” he said.