Atlas Iron Limited posts $159 million loss, should you sell?

Credit: iStock

Today was the turn of embattled iron ore miner Atlas Iron Limited (ASX: AGO) to release its full year results to the market.

Although the miner exported a record 14.5Mt and saw revenue increase 9% to $786 million, it wasn’t enough to stop it from reporting a statutory loss of $159 million. Contributing to the loss were non-cash asset impairments and write downs of $101 million.

Although the results were largely mixed, there were a number of positives that may give shareholders reason to be optimistic.

Full cash costs were reduced by 24% to $52.59 per wet metric tonne. Full cash costs includes all-in cash costs, contractor collaboration margin, capitalised exploration and evaluation, interest expense and sustaining capital expenditure. It excludes depreciation and amortisation, one-off restructuring and suspension costs of operating mine sites and other non-cash expenses.

Better yet is the fact that management’s guidance sees these costs dropping to between $48 and $52 per wet metric tonne in FY 2017. With management anticipating similar levels of exports, the miner could be poised for a strong year ahead if the iron ore price remains favourable.

Pleasingly for Atlas, Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX: FMG), and BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) the iron ore price has held steady in or around the US$60 a tonne level for a little while now and could yet go higher according to the Metal Bulletin.

Another positive is Atlas’ debt reduction and cash balance. Thanks to its debt restructure its term loan debt reduced from US$267 million to US$135 million with an extended maturity date from December 2017 to April 2021.

At the end of the period the company had a cash balance of $89.9 million, putting it well within its debt covenant requirement of a minimum cash balance of $35 million at the end of each month.

Whilst I would still choose Fortescue Metals ahead of Atlas if I were looking for exposure to iron ore, I must admit to being reasonably impressed with the Atlas turnaround. If the iron ore price holds firm over the next 12 months then I have little doubt that its shareholders will see incredibly strong returns.

But therein lies the problem. It is a very big if. Nobody knows which way the iron ore price will go in the next week, let alone the next 12 months. For this reason I would personally resist making an investment and focus on other areas of the market instead.

In fact, these three fantastic new breed blue chips could be great alternatives to Atlas if you ask me.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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.

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