Dwindling cash pile a burden for OZ Minerals
OZ Minerals always warned that the first half of 2013 would be tough for the company, where a lot of heavy lifting would be done for future benefit.
But it wasn't supposed to be this tough. The copper and goldminer revealed an underlying loss of $36.1 million for the first half, which became a net loss of $268 million once an asset write-down was thrown in.
Long-held plans to mine waste loads out of its ageing Prominent Hill precinct were always going to weigh on the bottom line, but a wall collapse and a sharp fall in metal prices helped force the company into the red.
The $231.9 million of write-downs were spread across property and equipment at Prominent Hill, as well as some low-grade gold stockpiles. The result is a stark contrast to 2012, when the company reported a half-year net profit of $119 million, which became a full-year profit of $152 million.
OZ sought to comfort shareholders with a 10¢ dividend, but strong selling still pushed the stock down more than 4 per cent.
Investors may have been concerned to see the company's cash pile standing at just $432.9 million; a far cry from the billion-dollar war chest of several years ago that was supposed to be quarantined for a major acquisition.
While some incoming payments mean the true state of the cash pile is closer to $550 million, UBS analyst Jo Battershill said some investors might have been spooked to see the cash balance so low.
"The reason people bought this stock historically was because it had a significant cash balance - close to a billion dollars - and was going to do transformational deals. But over the course of the two years we've just seen the cash balance get smaller and smaller, so I think there is a bit of realisation there as well," he said.
OZ chief executive Terry Burgess urged investors to keep the faith because much of the hard work was now complete.
"The outlook from here on is an improving one, we see ourselves at a turning point," he said.