Why the South32 Ltd share price climbed higher today

Credit: South 32

It’s been a horrible nine months for BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP), and its spin-off South32 Ltd (ASX: S32), since the company listed in May last year.

As you can see from the chart below, BHP is down over 47%, and South32 is down 42%, dropping from $2.05 on its first day of trading to its current price of $1.19.

(Source: Google Finance)

Diversified miner, South 32 today announced a half year net loss of US$1.75 billion (A$2.43 billion), hurt by large write-downs at its manganese business in Australia and energy coal operations in South Africa.

“The majority of our commodities have suffered a slump in prices,” chief executive Graham Kerr said.

“We don’t see prices rebounding in a dramatic way for the next 12 to 18 months,” he told an analysts’ call.

The company flagged write-downs of US$1.7 billion earlier in February after revising down its commodity price forecasts. It also announced the loss of 620 jobs at its troubled South African manganese business after slashing production there.

Today, it said it would cut another 772 jobs at its Australian operations, reducing employee and contractor numbers at the Worsley Alumina facility in Western Australia, Illawarra Metallurgical Coal operations in NSW and GEMCO manganese mining operation in the Northern Territory.

It will cut another 350 jobs at the Cerro Matoso nickel mine and smelter in Colombia.

The reductions, to be completed by June end, are part of the company’s efforts to reduce its per unit costs amid tough market conditions.

The restructuring will result in savings of US$160 million in FY17, and cut capital expenditure by US$275 million, it said.

Shares in the company jumped on the news. By 2pm, the share price was up 5.3% to $1.19.

South32, listed in May 2015 after demerging from mining giant BHP Billiton, it is the world’s largest producer of manganese ore and a global producer of manganese alloy, used in making steel and aluminium products.

It also has significant interests in alumina, silver, nickel and coal.

The company has slashed its debt and cut production at several high-cost mines and smelters, after announcing in August it would strip out US$350 million in costs by the end of its 2018 financial year.

It now expects to significantly exceed that target.

The company has also cut capital expenditure forecast for the current financial year by another US$150 million, to $550 million. It has, however, maintained its production guidance for the full year.

South32 had reported a net profit of US$339 million for the year ago period.

Underlying earnings, excluding non-cash impairments and the impact of foreign exchange, slumped 94% to US$26 million in the most recent period.

If mining shares are not your thing, discover the 'new breed' of blue chips that could take your portfolio higher in 2016:

Forget BHP and Woolworths. These 3 "new breed" top blue chips for 2016 pay fully franked dividends and offer the very real prospect of significant capital appreciation. Click here to learn more.

The report is free! No credit card required.

Motley Fool contributor John Hopkins has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

Two New Stock Picks Every Month!

Not to alarm you, but you’re about to miss a very important event! Chief Investment Advisor Scott Phillips and his team at Motley Fool Share Advisor are about to reveal their latest official stock recommendation. The premium “buy alert” will be unveiled to members and you can be among the first to act on the tip.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by – this is your chance to get in early!

Simply enter your email now to find out how you can get instant access.

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.