UPDATE 1-Fortescue focuses on debt payments despite iron ore price fall
* Fortescue to make early $500 million repayment on Friday
* CEO sees long term market for exports to China
* September quarter shipments rise 60 percent (Recasts, adds CEO quotes)
By James Regan
SYDNEY, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group said it will make a $500 million bond repayment on Friday, more than three years before it is due, underscoring its confidence of turning a profit despite a slump in iron prices.
Fortescue chief executive Nev Power said on Thursday the company would continue to pay down debt early, even as a 40 percent drop in iron ore prices this year squeezed operating margins.
"I sleep very peacefully, we are generating strong cash flows and continuing to repay our debt," Power said as the company released its quarterly report.
Fortescue has expanded rapidly to become Australia's third-largest iron ore miner behind global giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton , and is currently producing at a rate of 156 million tonnes a year.
Iron ore prices, however, have tumbled from a peak of around $190 a tonne in early 2011 to current levels around $82.20 .IO62-CNI=SI as big miners continue to flood the market with cheap ore in a battle for market share. Continuación...