The world’s 40 largest mining companies continued to consolidate their stellar performance of the past several years by delivering steady growth in 2018, according to PwC’s Mine 2019 report released today.
As a group, the Top 40 increased revenue by 8%, buoyed by higher commodity price rises, and lifted production by 2%. They also boosted cash flows, paid down debt and provided a record dividend to shareholders of $43 billion. Forecasts indicate continued steady performance in 2019. Revenue should remain stable, with weaker prices for coal and copper offsetting marginally higher production and higher average prices for iron ore.
Yet investors seemed unimpressed by the Top 40’s result, judging by market valuations, which fell 18% over 2018. While total market capitalization rose in the first term of this year, it remains 8% down compared to the end of 2017. Over the past 15 years, total shareholders’ return in mining has lagged that of the market as a whole as well as comparable industries such as oil and gas.
PwC’s Global Mining and Metals leader, Jock O’Callaghan, said: “One thing is clear – mining requires more than good financial performance to continue to create and realise value in a sustainable manner.
“We believe that the market has reservations about the mining industry’s ability to respond to the risks and uncertainties of a changing world.
“With strong balance sheets and cash flows, now is the time for the Top 40 to address the issues weighing down market values: climate change, shifting consumer sentiment, and technology adoption.
“Miners need to move swiftly to restore faith in ‘brand mining. As an industry, this means transforming their reputation as efficient ‘converters of dirt’ posing omnipresent environmental risk to prominent builders of both economic and societal capital. Prioritising greener and consumer-centric strategies, enabled by technology, will help earn the trust of stakeholders and enable miners to create sustainable value into the future.”
Balance sheets remain strong; capital expenditure up but slow
In 2018 the Top 40 paid down $15.5 billion in net borrowings, resulting in the gearing position dropping below the 10-year average. All liquidity and solvency ratios improved during the year, leaving the world’s largest miners with strong balance sheets and cash flows.
In line with expectations, capital expenditures started to rise again, albeit from historically low levels. The 13% increase over the previous year to $57 billion suggests that miners are continuing to proceed cautiously; approximately half (48%) of the capital expenditure in 2018 was for ongoing projects.
Copper and gold dominated spending in 2018, attracting $30 billion worth of investment. Capital expenditure on coal was consistent, year on year, and it is expected that miners will maintain current production levels while the coal price remains high.
Shareholders, government and other stakeholders rewarded
An 11% lift in operating cash flows has allowed the Top 40 to increase shareholder distributions in 2018 to a record $43 billion. Dividend yield for the year was 5.5%. There was a notable jump in share buybacks to $15 billion, up from $4 billion in 2017. Rio Tinto and BHP accounted for 70% of the total activity returning proceeds of non-core disposals to shareholders.
“While their shareholders see buybacks as welcome news in the short term, miners need to ask whether this has come at a cost given the challenges of attracting long-term capital.” said Mr O’Callaghan. “Equity raisings during the year remained at a paltry $3bn, lower than the preceding two years.”
In 2018 the share of value distributed to governments in the form of direct taxes and royalties increased from 19% to 21%. Employees received 22% of the total value distribution from the Top 40.
M&A activity picks up
After several years of sluggish activity, M&A picked up significantly in 2018. The value of announced transactions rose 137% to $30 billion, driven by a flurry of activity in the gold sector, the on-going push by miners to optimise their portfolios, and momentum to acquire energy metals projects.
“The renewed appetite for large transactions looks set to continue this year, with announced deal value to 30 April already exceeding the whole of 2017,” said Mr O’Callaghan. “Post merger disposal of non-core assets in revised portfolios will support more deals activity in the near term.”
Gold sector consolidating
The gold sector is experiencing a renewed round of consolidation, driven by a shrinking pipeline of projects, fewer new high-grade discoveries and a lack of funding for junior developments. Gold deals increased from 8% of total Top 40 deal value in 2017 to 25% in 2018, and this year are tracking at close to 95% of deals as at the end of April.
“In the current market, gold mining companies need to be rigorous and disciplined with prospective deals. Investors are still reeling from the spate of overpriced deals between 2005 to 2012, the value of which has now been lost,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
Digitalizing the Maritime Sector Set To Boost the Competitiveness of Global Trade
A new report launched today by the World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) shows that better digital collaboration between private and public entities across the maritime supply chain will result in significant efficiency gains, safer and more resilient supply chains, and lower emissions.
Maritime transport carries over 90% of global merchandise trade, totaling some 11 billion tons of cargo per year. Digitalizing the sector would bring wide-ranging economic benefits and contribute to a stronger, more sustainable recovery.
Accelerating Digitalization: Critical Actions to Strengthen the Resilience of the Maritime Supply Chain describes how collaborative use of digital technology can help streamline all aspects of maritime transport, from cross-border processes and documentation to communications between ship and shore, with a special focus on ports.
The COVID-19 crisis has evidenced a key benefit of digitizing waterborne and landside operations: meeting the urgent needs to minimize human interaction and enhance the resilience of supply chains against future crises.
“In many of our client countries, inefficiencies in the maritime sector result in delays and higher logistics costs, with an adverse impact on the entire economy. Digitization gives us a unique chance to address this issue,” noted Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure. “Beyond immediate benefits to the maritime sector, digitalization will help countries participate more fully in the global economy, and will lead to better development outcomes.”
IAPH Managing Director of Policy and Strategy, Dr Patrick Verhoeven, added: “the report’s short and medium term measures to accelerate digitalization have the proven potential to improve supply chain resilience and efficiency whilst addressing potential risks related to cybersecurity. However, necessary policy reform is also vital. Digitalization is not just a matter of technology but, more importantly, of change management, data collaboration, and political commitment.”
Although the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made it mandatory for all its member countries to exchange key data electronically (the FAL convention), a recent IAPH survey reveals that only a third of over 100 responding ports comply with that requirement. The main barriers to digitalize cited by the ports were the legal framework in their countries or regions and persuading the multiple private-public stakeholders to collaborate, not the technology.
The report analyzes numerous technologies applied already by some from the world’s leading port and maritime communities, including big data, the internet of things (IoT), fifth-generation technology (5G), blockchain solutions, wearable devices, unmanned aircraft systems, and other smart technology-based methods to improve performance and economic competitiveness.
Skills Development Vital to Enabling Transition to Industry 4.0 in Southeast Asia
Countries in Southeast Asia should consider developing industry transformation maps in key sectors to enable the transition to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) with adequate investment in skills development for new and repositioned jobs, according to a new study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The finding is one of six key recommendations emerging from ADB’s study Reaping Benefits of Industry 4.0 Through Skills Development in High-Growth Industries in Southeast Asia, covering Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.
“The future of jobs is at the heart of development in Asia and the Pacific,” said Director General of ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Woochong Um. “While jobs have been lost to automation in recent years, new jobs will emerge as new and disruptive technologies are adopted. Now is the time to invest in skills development that will help displaced workers acquire the abilities necessary to move into new jobs and help job-seekers access quality jobs for greater prosperity.”
The study assesses two industries in each country deemed important for growth, employment, and 4IR. Based on employer surveys, the study reports large potential returns to businesses arising from productivity increases from 4IR technologies.
By 2030, there is likely to be a positive net impact in all industries analyzed with more jobs created than displaced. Although a third of agro-processing jobs in Viet Nam may be displaced, for example, substantial net job creation of 34% is possible. There could also be net increases of 39% for garments in Cambodia, 14% for food and beverage manufacturing in Indonesia, and 11% for IT-business process outsourcing (BPO) in the Philippines.
“The findings of the study point towards a clear path for the future in Southeast Asia,” said ADB Director General for Southeast Asia Ramesh Subramaniam. “While the region may face challenges in moving the displaced workers into new jobs due to inadequate skills, we are confident that countries will design appropriate policies and invest in workforce skills particularly to accelerate the post-pandemic recovery. We must do everything possible to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Employers in all industries surveyed stressed the importance of skills in the context of disruptive technologies. Together, they could need an additional 169 million people trained by 2030 to prepare for the transition to 4IR.
The study recommends strengthening on-the-job training and skills development for the jobs of tomorrow. It calls for developing industry-led technical and vocational education and training programs with dedicated credentials for 4IR, and flexible and modular skills certification programs that recognize skills attainment outside of traditional education channels.
The study revealed mismatches between training institutions and employers on the perceived readiness of graduates for the workplace. While 96% of training institutions surveyed in Indonesia believed their graduates were well-prepared for work, only 33% of food and beverage manufacturing employers agreed. In Cambodia, almost 90% of surveyed employers reported that graduates were inadequately prepared for entry-level jobs.
The study recommends upgrading training delivery through the application of 4IR curriculum and technology in classrooms and training facilities in close collaboration between industry and training providers to strengthen workforce readiness. The survey of training institutions revealed limited use of advanced technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and online platforms for training delivery.
The study calls for new approaches to strengthen inclusion and social protection for entry-level workers, those at risk of job displacement, and those who need upskilling. According to IT-BPO employers in the Philippines, manual and administrative jobs which are typically held by women are likely to see the largest losses, while females in Cambodia’s garments industry are more likely to be affected.
To ensure the welfare of workers, the study calls for a strong focus on reskilling and upskilling programs, and incentives schemes for employers to retrain workers. The Career-Up Josei-Kin program in Japan, which subsidizes employers to train individuals not on regular contracts is identified as a good example.
While the coronavirus disease pandemic is accelerating digital transformation, the study finds that companies deploying 4IR technologies are likely to recover faster from the disruptions caused by the pandemic and be more resilient in the future.
Thailand: Growth in Jobs Critical for Sustained COVID-19 Recovery
Thailand’s economy was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is estimated to have shrunk by 6.5 percent in 2020. Growth is projected to expand by 4.0 percent in 2021, according to Restoring Incomes; Recovering Jobs, the latest edition of the World Bank’s Thailand Economic Monitor,” launched today. The report stresses that sustained recovery in employment will be essential to helping the country bounce back in 2021 and 2022.
In 2020, weak global demand, the sharp decline in international tourist arrivals, and domestic mobility restrictions depressed goods and services exports and private consumption. Exports and private investment are estimated to have declined by 18.5 percent and 4.4 percent respectively, while household consumption declined by 1.3 percent.
The resulting declines in income have created economic hardship for many, though the Government has made good progress in implementing a substantial package of measures to support households and firms. Nevertheless, projections indicate that an additional 1.5 million people may have entered poverty in 2020 due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, based on a poverty line of US$5.50 (2011 PPP) per day.
This year, the economy is expected to recover gradually, despite the recent second outbreak of COVID-19, and growth is forecast to pick up further to 4.7 percent in 2022. However, the recovery remains vulnerable to downside risks, including from an extended resurgence of the pandemic resulting in a prolonged stagnation in tourism and domestic activity, a weaker-than-expected global recovery that could lead to continuing trade and supply chain disruptions, and high household debt levels.
The pandemic’s impact has had a significant impact on Thailand’s labor market, with a particularly large increase in unemployment among young people. Hours worked fell, as did monthly incomes. Hours worked have not fully recovered, and employment in several sectors including manufacturing remains smaller than a year ago. This means the labor market is in a vulnerable position to confront any future shocks including a resurgence of COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 crisis and its economic impact have highlighted a key vulnerability for Thailand: the declining number of working-aged people, which compounds the challenge of recovering the economic losses of the last year,” said Birgit Hansl, World Bank Country Manager for Thailand. “Improvements in employment, productivity and labor incomes, especially among the poor, will be necessary for a sustainable recovery.”
The report recommends that in the short term, the government put in place training programs to improve workers skills and provide financial support while they get back to work. Ongoing efforts are required to ensure that education and training matches the needs of employers.
In the longer term, the government can increase employment in the care sector, make childcare more accessible and decrease its cost to help increase female labor force employment. The report also recommends increasing the retirement age and putting in place performance-based compensation schemes and flexible working arrangements to extend the working lives of older people.
“The decline in the working age population will reduce labor supply and economic output over the coming decades. Good jobs will need to be created in high-productivity sectors associated with Thailand’s emerging knowledge economy. Policies to boost labor productivity and labor market participation of older people and women can help promote a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, while addressing challenges associated with an aging population,” according to Kiatipong Ariyapruchya, World Bank Senior Economist for Thailand.
M&A valuations boom in the second half of 2020, despite COVID-19 impacts on the economy
M&A valuations are soaring, with rich valuations and intense competition for many digital or technology-based assets driving global deals activity,...
When is usury usury? Turkish fatwa casts doubt on Erdogan’s religious soft power drive
Turkey’s state-controlled top religious authority has conditionally endorsed usury in a ruling that is likely to fuel debate about concepts...
Solar power charges pandemic recovery for indigenous farmers in Viet Nam
Overcoming adversity has long been the stock in trade of Do Thi Phuong, a 42-year-old mother of two living in...
‘Reset Earth’: Animation film & mobile game bring Gen Z into protecting ozone layer
‘Reset Earth’ is an innovative educational platform for adolescents about the fundamental role of the ozone layer in protecting the...
Israel continues its air strikes against Syria after Biden’s inauguration: What’s next?
A family of four, including two children, died as a result of an alleged Israeli air strike on Hama in...
Digitalizing the Maritime Sector Set To Boost the Competitiveness of Global Trade
A new report launched today by the World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) shows that...
How the West failed to understand contemporary Russia
A few years ago, James G. Stavridis, a retired U.S. admiral and dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law...
South Asia3 days ago
Arnab Goswami’s whatsApp leaks show power of propaganda
Arts & Culture1 day ago
Rising Pak-Turk Cultural Diplomacy: “Dirilis Ertugrul”- The Prime Catalyst
Middle East2 days ago
Reigniting Chaos in Syria
Terrorism2 days ago
Global War on Terror: Pakistan’s Role and Evolving Security Architecture for sustainable peace
Americas3 days ago
Latin America and China: The economic and debt situation and the U.S. discomfort
Green Planet3 days ago
Promoting Green Finance in Qatar: Post-Pandemic Opportunities and Challenges
Americas2 days ago
Is Mike Pompeo the worst Secretary of State in history?
Economy3 days ago
The Economy Against the Tide