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Should you buy Rio Tinto shares after today’s update?

In morning trade the Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) share price has edged higher following the release of its fourth quarter and full year production results.

At the time of writing the mining giant’s shares are up 1% to $81.12.

What happened in the fourth quarter?

In the fourth quarter the company delivered quarter on quarter increases in iron ore and copper production.

Pilbara iron ore production increased 5% on the previous quarter to 86.6Mt. This brought its total annual production to 337.8Mt, up 2% year on year and at the upper end of guidance.

Copper production was the standout with an 11% increase on the previous quarter to 177.8kt, taking its annual production to 633.5kt. This was a 33% increase on FY 2017’s copper production and reflected the strong performance at Escondida and increased production from Rio Tinto Kennecott.

Elsewhere, other highlights include Bauxite production which was at the upper end of its guidance and aluminium production which was in line with guidance

One slight disappointment was its Titanium dioxide slag production which was 15% lower than in FY 2017 due largely to production disruptions at Rio Tinto Fer et Titane in the second quarter. Intermittent stoppages related to labour disputes between contractors and their employees at Richards Bay Minerals also contributed to the underperformance.

FY 2019 guidance.

Looking ahead, management advised that Rio Tinto’s Pilbara shipments in FY 2019 are expected to be between 338 and 350 million tonnes, subject to weather and market conditions. This compares to shipments of 338.2 million tonnes in FY 2018.

Rio Tinto’s share of mined copper production for FY 2019 is expected to be between 550 and 600 thousand tonnes, which will be down on the 633.5 thousand tonnes produced in FY 2018.

Should you invest?

I don’t think there were many surprises in today’s release. As a result, I still see Rio Tinto as a great option for investors looking for exposure to the resources sector in 2019.

Other top options in the sector in my opinion include BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) and South32 Ltd (ASX: S32). As with Rio Tinto, both these miners have world class assets and are generating sizeable free cash flows that are consistently finding their way back to shareholders in the form of buybacks and dividends.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any of the 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 Scott Phillips.

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