UPDATE 3-Rio Tinto austerity drive stokes surprise dividend hike
* H2 profit jumps 45 pct to $5.99 bln, beating forecasts
* Annual dividend up 15 pct to $1.92, tops consensus
* Exceeds forecasts on capex, net debt cuts
* Shares fall 0.5 pct in London, after hitting 11-month high
* CEO expects challenges for Guinea iron project development
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto surprised investors with a 15 percent dividend hike after reporting a huge jump in second-half profit on Thursday, putting it in a strong position for a big capital return in 2015.
Rio's result will set the pace for other mega miners, who have shelved projects, axed costs, sold assets and cut debt over the past 18 months to satisfy shareholders wanting a bigger share of spoils from the mining boom.
"It's a pretty clear signal ... on how they intend to allocate capital in the future - more back to shareholders and less into the business," said Richard Knights, an analyst at Liberum in London. Continuación...