Ore price tipped to fall
Debt repayments by Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron in the past six months look to be well timed, with analyst consensus forecasts tipping steep falls in the iron ore price in coming months.
Despite iron ore stockpiles at Chinese ports approaching the 120 million tonne mark, the highest levels seen since 2014, the benchmark iron ore price ticked up again last week.
Talk of more steel mill closures in China, along with analyst reports that China’s iron ore miners did not increase production much in response to steep commodity price rises last year, led to sharp rises for iron ore futures on the Dalian exchange on January 11, suggesting further rallies in the iron ore price this month.
However, while the iron ore market is notoriously difficult to anticipate, analyst predictions suggest price falls are on the way.
The benchmark iron ore price has not slipped below $US60 a tonne since mid-October.
But the median price of analyst consensus estimates on Bloomberg suggests commodity price tippers expect the iron ore price to average only $US60/t in the first quarter of the year, falling to an average $US55/t in the second half of the year.
Atlas, which has a breakeven operations at a headline price of just under $US50/t, said last week it added $39 million to its bank balance as prices rose in the December quarter.
It said it had cut its debts by $54 million in the period, leaving $118 million to repay on its US term-loan debt, and expects to have more cash than debt by the middle of the year.
Fortescue also slashed a significant portion of its debt late last year and is now expected to be in a position to revisit its dividend payout ratio in its half-year financial results, due next month.
Fortescue chief Nev Power.