Merafe’s profit surges despite drop in sales – by Allan Seccombe (Business Day – August 8, 2017)

Merafe Resources, the junior partner in a chrome joint venture with Glencore, reported a hefty inventory build-up as production exceeded sales, while global demand for the stainless steel ingredient slowed and the market stayed under pressure.

The joint venture is one of the world’s leading sources of ferrochrome and chrome ore, and it operates in SA. Merafe said revenue attributable to the company increased 7% to R2.58bn for the six months to end June compared with that of the same period a year earlier. Profit increased to R486m from R57m, allowing the company to declare a 3c per share dividend. Net debt fell by half to R208m.

Stronger prices in the first half of the year offset a 28% drop in sales to 157,000 tonnes for Merafe’s account, while a stronger rand against the dollar eroded the revenue line.

Inventory levels now stand at up to five months’ worth of sales after a 10% increase in output to 216,000 tonnes of ferrochrome.

“Overall, the second quarter of 2017 has seen a marked pullback in the market following the exceptional heights reached during the recovery in the second half of 2016.

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