Jiangxi expects copper to reach record prices

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 12:00am

A record price for copper may be set in the coming year even though the mainland's biggest copper producer aimed at increasing the metal's production by 66 per cent to 1.5 million tonnes in the next five years.

Jiangxi Copper's deputy general manager Wu Yuneng said Japan's post-quake reconstruction and the unstable political environment in the Middle East will buoy demand and prices for copper and gold. Eleven global institutes estimated copper prices to reach between US$8,700 and US$12,500 a tonne this year, up from US$7,534 in 2010.

Global copper output was 17.37 million tonnes last year, 400,000 tonnes short of consumption. The strong demand for the metal helped the company achieve one of its best results last year, with net profit surging 110 per cent to 4.99 billion yuan (HK$5.92 billion).

To boost production capacity, the company will allocate HK$5 billion for capital expenditure this year to develop mines, consolidate smelting and improve refining. Its mine project in Guangzhou - with operation due to begin in May - will boost the company's production capacity by 400,000 tonnes.

Its two overseas projects - a US$1.7 billion copper mine project in Afghanistan and a US$2.5 billion one in northern Peru - will begin operation by 2014 or 2015.

The company will inject up to a total of US$50 million this year as preliminary investment for the two projects. The mine in Afghanistan will generate 200,000 tonnes of copper cathode for the company.

Financial manager Jiang Liehui expected gross profit margin to grow from 10.8 per cent now when more self-owned mines begin operation. Production from its own mines now made up only about 13 per cent of its total output. The higher economy of scale from a larger production capacity could also soften the impact of rising costs, he said.

The company issued a dividend of 20 fen per share.

Its shares closed 5.48 per cent higher at HK$26 yesterday.