Australia’s Fortescue lifts cost estimate for key project, declares bumper dividend

(Reuters) – Fortescue Metals Group on Thursday raised its cost estimate and delayed the time frame of its key Iron Bridge Magnetite project in Western Australia, while announcing higher profits and a bumper dividend.

The world’s fourth-largest iron ore miner now expects the total project cost to be $3 billion, $400 million more than its previous estimate.

The company also postponed the timing of first production to the second half of 2022 from the first half. The project is expected to deliver 22 million tonnes when fully ramped up.

As part of a review of the high-grade ore project, a crucial part of Fortescue’s strategy to upgrade its products and win market share, the company also announced the departure of its chief operating officer and two other executives.

The latest update on the project was made alongside the miner’s first-half earnings report, in which it raised annual shipment forecast and reported a 66% jump in profit.

Fortescue expects iron ore shipments to be in the range of 178-182 million tonnes, up from a prior range of 175-180 million tonnes.

It also declared a higher-than-expected interim dividend of A$1.47 per share, up from A$0.76 last year.

Net profit after tax for the first-half was $4.08 billion, up from $2.45 billion a year earlier. This was in line with a consensus of $4.09 billion from 10 analysts compiled by research firm Vuma Financial.