Rio Tinto doubles first-half profit, offers record dividend – by James Regan and Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.K. – August 2, 2017)

SYDNEY/LONDON (Reuters) – Global miner Rio Tinto more than doubled its first-half profit buoyed by Chinese iron ore demand and rewarded shareholders with a record interim dividend and $1 billion in share buybacks.

Underlying earnings for the six months to June 30 of $3.94 billion missed forecasts for $4.19 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, but were well above last year’s $1.56 billion following a recovery in iron ore and other commodity prices.

Rio Tinto declared a record-high half-year dividend of $1.10 a share, equivalent to $2 billion, up from 45 cents a share a year ago. The latest buyback comes on top of a $500 million program announced in February.

“The Chinese economy has performed well in 2017 and the outlook signs for 2018 are positive,” Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques told reporters. “Beyond China, global economies have both improved in Europe and the U.S.”

Rio’s London-listed shares were trading down 3 percent by 1340 GMT, with analysts citing some disappointment over the miss in earnings, linked to the cost of paying down debt early.

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