* Amplats expects to complete review by end of first half
* Asset sale, Mogalakwena should help it hit ROCE target
* Expects 22 pct rise in production in year to end Dec (Recasts with CEO comments, ROCE target)
By Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Silvia Antonioli
JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Anglo American Platinum expects to hit a profitability target set by its parent company within three years, the company’s boss said, as the world’s top platinum producer reported a 46 percent plunge in annual profit.
The Anglo American subsidiary is in the middle of a shake up that includes selling off underperforming assets as it struggles to recover from a five-month long strike last year. Amplats Chief Executive Chris Griffith also said the miner would return to pre-strike output levels this year.
The company hopes to complete the review and decide whether to sell or list its Union and Rustenburg mines by the end of the first half this year, after evaluating offers for the assets from two shortlists of companies.
Amplats says the sale, and focus switch to its more modern mine Mogalakwena, should help it to achieve a target set by Anglo American Chief Executive Mark Cutifani for the group to hit an average return on capital employed (ROCE) of at least 15 percent.
Amplats has been lagging way behind this level, also due to industrial action and low prices of platinum. ROCE is a financial ratio that measures a company’s profitability and the efficiency with which its capital is employed.
“Our anticipation is that in three years we can probably get there but it’s going to mean that our anticipation of prices is realised because we are not pushing volumes to get to that place,” Griffith said in an interview in Cape Town when asked how long before Amplats would reach the 15 percent ROCE target.
Platinum has fallen more than 20 percent since July last year, hit by weak demand from Europe. However, Griffith said prices were set to improve this year because supply was unlikely to materially increase in the next few years.
He did not disclose his exact price expectations. “Even Mark’s (Cutifani) target is clearly dependent on how prices go.”
Cutifani, who had initially set the ROCE target for 2016, said in late December that it might take longer for the group to reach it, blaming a recent rout in commodity prices.
Amplats said production of platinum, used widely in auto catalysts, was expected to be at least 2.3 million ounces in the year to end December - which would be 22 percent higher than the 1.89 million ounces reported in 2014.
It reported a 46 percent fall in headline earnings per share to 301 cents, largely in-line with what it had flagged. Earnings were hit by the strike and falling prices, it said.
Headline EPS, the main profit measure in South Africa, strips out certain one-off items.
Shares in Amplats were 0.6 percent lower at 381 rand by 1348 GMT, slightly underperforming a 0.2 percent fall in the benchmark JSE Top-40 index. (Additonal reporting by Ed Stoddard in Cape Town; Editing by James Macharia and Susan Thomas)