WARSAW, March 18 (Reuters) - Polish copper group KGHM may pay out a dividend despite booking a record net loss for last year due to non-cash write-downs on the value of its foreign assets, the miner’s new chief executive said on Friday.
“In our 2016 assumptions we included some reference to a possible dividend payout. We do not exclude it. We will specify our recommendation in May,” Krzysztof Skora told a news conference.
The company, Europe’s second biggest copper producer as well as the world’s largest silver miner, last year paid a dividend costing 800 million zlotys ($211 million) and said it will have to raise debt to make a payout for 2015.
On Thursday it reported a net loss last year of 5.01 billion zlotys due to impairment charges totalling $1.3 billion made on its assets in Chile and North America.
The group wants to keep its ratio of net debt to adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation below 2.0 after raising it to 1.4 last year from 0.9 in 2014.
Excluding the write-downs, KGHM’s underlying net profit in 2015 rose 1 percent to 2.43 billion zlotys at the parent company - the level from which it pays out dividends. KGHM’s policy is to pay out 33 percent of these earnings.
The state-run group, which earlier this year underwent a management shake-up, has suffered from a 20-percent drop in the price of copper, caused by global worries over demand in China, the world’s largest metals consumer.
KGHM’s domestic operations benefited from a weaker zloty, but it had to recognise impairments at its foreign assets as a result of the drop in the copper price.
The largest write-down was incurred on KGHM’s Sierra Gorda copper open-pit mine in Chile, which it co-owns with Japan’s Sumitomo .
KGHM expects Sierra Gorda to break even at the EBITDA level in 2016, with copper production this year at around half of the mine’s targeted annual capacity of over 220,000 tonnes.
KGHM plans to present a detailed strategy by June, but it has said it is aiming for overall copper production to fall 9 percent this year to 525,400 tonnes, in part due to a four-month maintenance shutdown later this year at its Glogow smelter in Poland.
KGHM also said it expects copper prices to fall further this year to average $5,000 per tonne, down from $5,495 last year. ($1 = 3.7839 zlotys) (Reporting by Adrian Krajewski; Editing by Greg Mahlich)