Mining veteran Ivan Glasenberg delivered his final financial results as chief executive of Glencore by reinstating a dividend of $1.6bn (£1.15bn) for shareholders, despite reporting a net loss of $1.9bn for last year.
Glasenberg will step down after 20 years as boss of the mining firm this June after a difficult 2020 in which Glencore was forced to scrap its $2.1bn dividend in August and write down the value of its assets by $5.9bn.
He is now to reinstate the dividend after a strong rise in commodity prices in the second half of 2020, which helped the company to shrink its debt pile from the highs of $20bn last year and record better than expected financial results.
Glencore’s adjusted earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortisation reached $11.6bn for 2020, in line with the year before and above analyst expectations of $10.7bn for the year.
The commodity price surge also helped change the fortunes for BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, which revealed a record dividend of $5.1bn shortly after becoming the most valuable company on the London Stock Exchange.
BHP’s half-year underlying profits hit a seven-year high of just over $6bn due to a rally in the market price for iron ore, which is used to make steel. The company’s market value has more than doubled from lows in March last year to almost £124bn, beating Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever to the top of the FTSE 100.
Mining companies are hoping to benefit from the surge in demand for the metals required for low-carbon energy infrastructure and batteries – such as copper, nickel and cobalt – while bowing to investor pressure to end their contribution to the climate crisis.
Glasenberg will leave Glencore with a roadmap to become net zero carbon by 2050, and promised to submit the surprise climate action strategy released last year for a shareholder advisory vote.
He said it “is clear that meeting the goals of the Paris agreement has taken on even greater urgency” and that Glencore “is ready to support the transition to a low-carbon economy”.
Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst, at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Ivan Glasenberg has steered the commodities ship for nearly two decades, and before leaving the helm he’s nudged it on a greener course for the future.
“Instead of sailing against the tide, Glencore has already committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the first major miner with targets to fully align with the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change. Ramping up copper production while reducing its coal business is a big part of the strategy.”
BHP has stopped short of committing to exit coal and gas production. It announced plans late last year to slash its carbon emissions by 30% over next decade on its way to becoming net zero carbon by 2050, and will link 10% of executive pay to the company’s environmental performance. But it intends to retain mines producing metallurgical coal, which is used in steel-making, and to keep its oil and gas fields.