Rio Tinto’s first-quarter iron ore shipments fall 5%, missing estimates

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Rio Tinto reported a 5% fall in its first-quarter iron ore shipments on Wednesday, missing estimates, because of weather disruptions at ports and reduced production from some of its Western Australian mines.

Mine depletion in its Yandicoogina mine in Western Australia contributed to the fall in shipments, which was partially offset by its other operations as it takes steps to replenish supply.

We continue to advance our next tranche of Pilbara mine replacement studies,” it said. Construction of Rio’s Western Range mine is now more than half complete while it works on Hope Downs 1, Brockman 4, Greater Nammuldi and West Angelas.

The world’s largest producer of iron ore shipped 78 million metric tons of the steel-making commodity from its Pilbara operations for the three months ended March 31. That compares with the Visible Alpha consensus of 79.6 million tons.

The company had shipped 82.5 million tons of iron ore in the same period in 2023. Rio shares eased 0.25% on Wednesday in line with falls in other iron ore producers.

We reiterate our Buy rating on Rio shares as the company is best positioned of the “Big 3 iron ore miners to benefit from ongoing base metals price strength,” analysts at Jefferies said in a note.

Iron ore prices, which account for more than 80% of Rio’s underlying operating earnings, are expected to rise this year because of increased demand from top consumer China following its recent economic stimulus measures. Prices fell during the quarter.

Rio reaffirmed its expectation of shipments of 323 million to 338 million tons in 2024 from the Pilbara, the top end of which would be in line with its record shipments in 2018, before it pushes ahead to reach its medium term shipments guidance of 345 million to 360 million tons a year.

Rio’s aluminum production was 826,000 tonnes, up 5% on the same quarter a year ago while prices have recovered by 20% since late December lows.

Rio’s quarterly aluminum volumes remain at multi-year highs while the aluminum price has recently begun to rise, Jefferies noted.

“This segment is an overlooked potential driver of earnings for Rio, in our view,” Jefferies.

Source: Reuters