(Corrects throughout attribution of comments to Jose Carlos Martins instead of Murilo Ferreira)
By Stephen Eisenhammer
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 31 (Reuters) - Analysts following Brazil’s Vale should stop obsessing over iron ore prices and Chinese demand to focus instead on the company’s other divisions and cost cuts, one of the miner’s top executives said on Thursday.
Jose Carlos Martins, head of iron ore and strategy, made the comments during a conference call to discuss second-quarter results, which missed analysts’ forecasts largely due to a steep fall in the price of iron ore.
“I think people focus too much on the price of iron ore and also on China,” Martins told one analyst. “I really believe that you and your colleagues need to focus a little bit more on the basics of the business and to look at our portfolio of businesses.”
Martins said that in the past, when Vale was not expanding iron ore production and the other parts of the business were not delivering decent profits, it was fair to concentrate on prices and growth in China.
But things are changing, he said.
Vale is ramping up its production of nickel just as prices are rising because of a ban on the export of ore from Indonesia. The company could establish itself as the world’s largest producer of the metal in the coming years.
The miner is also investing in its coal operations in Mozambique and expects to run the first train along the whole stretch of its newly upgraded Nacala rail corridor by the end of the year. The rail line and connected port will add 18 million tonnes of capacity per year.
Vale has been tightening its belt too, with costs in the first half of 2014 down $249 million from a year earlier.
But despite Martins’ protestations, the market still sees Vale as a producer of iron ore, which accounts for about 85 percent of its profit. Its stock closely tracks the price of the mineral, the main ingredient in steel. Shares of Vale were unchanged at 28.93 reais on Thursday.
“Vale is still struggling to diversify away from iron ore,” Bernstein analysts Paul Gait wrote in a report last week.
Vale has his job cut out to change the market’s views.
“I kindly ask all of you to focus a little bit more of your analysis on our other businesses,” Martins said. (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)