UPDATE 2-Australia's Fortescue attacks costs, eyes opportunities
* Fortescue sees opportunites as debt goes down
* Better-than-expected attack on costs
* Sees debt to equity at 40 percent in 18 months
* Forecasts cash cost of $13/t by end June (Recasts, adds CFO quotes)
By James Regan and Sharon Klyne
SYDNEY, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Australia's Fortescue Metals Group reported a four percent fall in half-year profit as steep cost cuts largely offset a slump in iron ore prices, and flagged it will be on the lookout for acquisitions at a later date.
Fortescue, Australia's third-biggest producer behind Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton said on Wednesday its debt repayment schedule will allow it to look for distressed assets in about 18 months.
"As we generate cash flow from the business we will repay debt. That will put us in a position with a very strong balance sheet to take advantage of further opportunities in iron ore and across the broader sector," Chief Executive Nev Power said.
A severe downturn in commodities has already put BHP and Rio Tinto on watch for bargain acquisitions in a bid to take advantage of a severe slump in the commodities cycle. Continuación...