Fortescue May Beat Iron Ore Export Guidance as Prices Surge

  • Positive macro sentiment in China helping to lift price
  • Stronger Australian dollar, oil's rise to challenge cost cuts

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the fourth-biggest iron ore exporter, said it may beat its full-year export guidance after reporting third-quarter shipments rose 6 percent amid a surge in prices.

Exports were 41.8 million metric tons in the three months to March, compared with 39.4 million tons a year ago, the Perth-based producer said Wednesday in a statement. That was in line with the median estimate of 41.5 million tons among four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. It said in February it’s targeting full-year shipments of 165 million tons.

Shipments are running ahead of target due to the unseasonable mild weather in the March quarter and there’s potential for a rise in full-year guidance subject to conditions this quarter, Fortescue said. Prices soared 36 percent this year as China’s steel mills ramped up output ahead of the peak-construction season after policy makers indicated a willingness to bolster growth.

“China’s commentary about supporting growth means there’s a better backdrop from the government,” Peter O’Connor, a Sydney-based analyst with Shaw and Partners Ltd., said by phone. “The market has actually had less supply and demand has been ticking along.”

Fortescue rose as much as 6.4 percent in Sydney trading Wednesday and was 3.7 percent higher at A$3.07 at 10:54 a.m. The producer has advanced more than 64 percent this year.

Strong Quarter

“Iron ore and steel markets were strong during the March 2016 quarter,” the company said in the statement. “Positive macro sentiment in China and an improving steel price were the key drivers of iron ore price.”

Ore with 62 percent content delivered to Qingdao in China advanced 4.6 percent to $59.22 a dry ton on Tuesday after jumping 4.8 percent the previous day, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd.

Iron ore will be supported by steady steel demand in China of about 800 million tons a year, Chief Executive Officer Nev Power told Bloomberg Television in an interview last week. Fortescue last month signed an accord with Vale SA, the biggest supplier of the steelmaking material, on a potential joint venture aimed at blending some of their products to compete more closely with BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group.

The producer’s C1 cash costs, a measure that includes expenses for mining, processing and rail and port transport, fell 43 percent to $14.79 a wet metric ton in the third quarter compared to a year earlier, the company said. That compared to a median estimate of $14.25 a wet ton among four analysts.

Fortescue is continuing to seek to lower its costs to $13 a ton by July, though the target is “more challenging to achieve given the recent increase in the Australian dollar exchange rate and higher oil prices,” it said in the statement.

Total shipments, including third-party material, were 42 million tons from 40.4 million tons a year earlier, the producer said. Port Hedland, which handles the producer’s cargoes, experienced only limited impact from the region’s usual cyclone season.

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