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CEO exit casts shadow on Fortescue results

Image shows Fiona Hick

Fiona Hick

Photo by Bloomberg

28th August 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Iron-ore major Fortescue has reported record shipments during the 2023 financial year, while also announcing the departure of CEO Fiona Hick only six months after her appointment.

Hick’s February appointment had followed the resignation of Elizabeth Gaines.

In a statement on Monday, Fortescue said Hick had made a joint decision with the Fortescue board to leave the company, labelling the departure "both friendly and mutual".

The miner has now expedited the appointment of Dino Otranto as CEO, and has announced the appointment of Dr Larry Marshall as a nonexecutive director.

Otranto joined Fortescue in 2021 as COO for iron-ore, and he has over 20 years experience in the global energy and resources industry, spanning various commodities and operations across the globe.

“I am really looking forward to continuing to work with our amazing Fortescue team to strengthen our powerhouse iron-ore business further while racing to reach Real Zero by 2030 across our operations. Climate change is accelerating and we need to act faster than we ever thought to give our children a better future,” Otranto said.

Meanwhile, Fortescue delivered its fourth consecutive year of record operational results in the 2023 financial year, with iron-ore shipments increasing by 2% on the previous financial year to 192.4-million tonnes, at a C1 cost of $17.54/t, generating revenues of $16.871-billion.

Revenue for the full year was down 3%, following a 5% fall in average revenue achieved on iron-ore sales.

Underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation were down by 6%, to $9.96-billion and net profit after tax was down 23% to $4.79-billion, reflecting an impairment charge of $726-million relating to the Iron Bridge project.

Iron Bridge started production in May this year and loaded its first concentrate to ship in July. The project transitioned to operational production in August, and the ramp-up period is expected to take 24 months to reach the 22-million-tonne-a-year capacity.

Fortescue said on Monday that the impairment charge related to Iron Bridge had resulted from a review of the carrying value of the miner’s assets. The company has maintained that Iron Bridge remains an "important and strategic "asset for Fortescue.

“The team has delivered a fourth consecutive year of record operational performance for FY23, contributing to underlying net profit after tax of $5.5-billion and free cash flow of US$4.3-billion. This was achieved while maintaining our focus on safety, with a total recordable injury frequency rate of 1.8 across our iron-ore operations,” said Otranto.

"Fortescue celebrated a number of significant milestones during the financial year including first production at our Iron Bridge magnetite project, and first ore mined from the Belinga iron-ore project in Gabon as part of the early stage mine development.

"Reflecting our ongoing commitment to delivering enhanced shareholder returns, the board has declared a fully franked final dividend of A$1.00 per share, bringing total dividends declared for FY23 to A$1.75 per share. This represents a 65% pay-out of underlying net profit after tax.”

Meanwhile, Fortescue Energy CEO Mark Hutchinson said that the green energy division had maintained momentum during the full year, in its journey to decarbonise Fortescue’s Australian iron-ore operations with the arrival of a battery electric haul truck prototype to site in the Pilbara for testing, as well as a retrofitted locomotive engine to run dual fuel with ammonia.

“As Fortescue celebrates its twentieth anniversary, we are moving to one brand to represent our global metals and green energy company. Through operational excellence, our disciplined approach to capital allocation and ongoing investment in metals, green energy and green technologies, we are well positioned to continue to deliver benefits to all of our stakeholders.”

Looking ahead at 2024, Fortescue is targeting shipments of between 192-million and 197-million tonnes, with some seven-million tonnes expected from Iron Bridge. C1 costs have been guided at between $18/t and $19/t for the Pilbara hematite.

In terms of capital expenditure, Fortescue is expecting to spend between $2.8-billion and $3.2-billion, with Fortescue Energy’s net operating expenditure to reach $800-million and its capital expenditure and investments $400-million, excluding projects subject to final investment decision.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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