Rio reiterates commitment to returns

RIO Tinto CEO Sam Walsh has driven home the company’s commitment to materially increasing shareholder returns in a presentation in London last week.
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Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh. Copyright Rio Tinto 2014

Greg Tubby

Building on the message communicated in Sydney last month, Walsh said the company’s relentless focus on financial discipline gave Rio industry leading margins.

“When you look at EBITDA margins, the quality and longevity of resources and reserves and potential for expansion and growth, there is no question our world-class assets will generate sustainable returns for decades to come,” he said.

Walsh said the use of technology and innovation had helped the company deliver more tonnes for lower costs, creating material value.

“This return is not just a one-off, it flows through to the bottom line every year and that represents considerable value when the assets are multi-decade operations,” he said.

“Assisted by disciplined allocation of capital, our balance sheet is strong and ideally suited to the current economic environment and protecting shareholders.

“Every dollar we spend must be allocated in the interests of our shareholders.”

Rio’s focus next year will be on materially increasing shareholder returns.

“There is a clear focus behind everything we are doing,” Walsh said.

“Looking out over the next five years, we expect to generate strong free cashflow and we remain committed to materially increase cash returns to shareholders.

“I look forward to announcing this at our annual results in February.”

But Walsh warned the near-term outlook remained challenging.

“Our company is soundly positioned to prosper against this backdrop however, because the uncertainty plays to our strengths and our competitive advantages come to the fore,” he said.

The company will prioritise the South of Embley bauxite development, calling it a tier one investment opportunity.

The project will be put to the board for approval next year after the completion of a feasibility study and first production is due in 2018.

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