OZ Minerals boss talks up value

OZ Minerals has told frustrated shareholders that its near-record-low share price has no effect on the company's higher underlying value.

OZ Minerals has told frustrated shareholders that its near-record-low share price has no effect on the company's higher underlying value.

The copper miner's board was greeted by hostile investor questions in relation to the plunging values of their shareholdings, including a near-halving in just over three months.

Market sentiment around OZ Minerals has been buffeted by a weak copper price and its own rising mining costs that left the miner barely breaking even in the March quarter with a weaker production outlook for this year.

There is also uncertainty about where the ageing single-mine company's future production is coming from, although OZ Minerals says it is confident of extending its Prominent Hill mine's life to 2030.

"Like most resource companies we are trading at a very significant discount to our fundamental value: be that our NTA [net tangible assets] or any net present value calculation," chairman Neil Hamilton said at the company's annual meeting in Melbourne.

"I can't tell you why such a discount is justified. It is industry-wide ... perhaps the discount is greater because of where we find ourselves in this life-of-mine program and because we are going through this period of tough cash flow." The company's shares closed 14¢ lower at $3.86.

That is the lowest share price since the global financial crisis, when OZ Minerals was a far bigger beast with multiple mines that it was forced to offload in a fire sale to pay off debt.

One investor on Tuesday, who described himself as disgruntled, pointed out that the company had thrown away money by buying back $200 million in shares at $10.51 and $9.18 each over the past two years.

"There was no tangible benefit to the average shareholder from those buybacks ... for the same $100 million per year, the dividend could have been increased by 30 per cent," he told Mr Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton acknowledged that in hindsight it probably would have been better not to have the buybacks, but shareholders would equally have been better off than before if the share price went up.

Apart from Prominent Hill mine in South Australia, OZ Minerals' Carrapateena copper-gold project in the same state is highly regarded but no decision to mine has been made. It is estimated that it could cost up to $3 billion to develop.

More doubt about Carrapateena was created when Mr Hamilton revealed the board had decided on Tuesday to delay building an exploration decline there until further studies and testing had been completed.