Lower coal and metal prices saw second-quarter profit cut by more than half at Teck Resources Ltd., the diversified miner that is a key exporter to China, the driver of global commodities markets for over a decade.
Vancouver-based Teck, one of the world's largest exporters of coking coal used in steel production, said adjusted profit in the second quarter was $312-million, or 53 cents a share, compared to $663-million in the same period last year.
"Ongoing economic uncertainties in Europe and the United States and less robust growth rates in China, India and other emerging markets have impacted both demand and prices for some of our products," Teck said in its statement of results on Wednesday.
"While we believe that the medium to longer term fundamentals for steel making coal, copper and zinc are quite favourable, the recent weakness in these markets may well persist over the near term," said the company, which competes with global mining giants such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
The result was far below the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg of 65 cents a share and came as demand for the commodities Teck produces – including coal, copper, zinc, silver, molybdenum and lead – tumbled.
Teck beat analysts' revenue expectations for the quarter, however, with the top line coming in at $2.6-billion in the second quarter, versus average estimates of $2.49-billion, but they were still markedly lower than a year ago, when the company revenue was $2.8-billion.
Concern is building that the so-called commodities supercycle is drawing to a close as a period of aggressive economic growth becomes more subdued in China, which powered prices for many materials to record highs over recent years.
As well as a slowing of its own expansion, the Asian giant has faced slumping exports to key markets in Europe and North America, both struggling with economic crisis.
Average prices were down in all the materials Teck produces, especially in top earners copper, down 14 per cent to $3.57 (U.S) a pound from $4.14 a pound in the same quarter last year. The decline was slightly mitigated by record copper production at the Antamina mine and increased throughput at Highland Valley.
The red metal is closely watched by most observers of global markets and is called "doctor" copper for its ability to reflect the health of the global economy and "king" copper for its spot as the most important base metal.
Coal prices were off 26 per cent in the same period to $202 per tonne, versus $272 per pound last year, compounding losses of 700,000 tonnes of coal production due to a strike at Canadian Pacific Railway – its sole provider in Western Canada. The company said annual production forecasts for up to 25.5 million tonnes were unchanged by the strike losses.
The company coal the price outlook could slip further in the third quarter, with average negotiated prices on 5 million tonnes of coal for delivery of $198 per tonne for all of its products.
"We are still in pricing discussions with some of our quarterly contract customers and our third quarter sales will depend on market conditions over the balance of the quarter," Teck said.
In fundamental news, Teck said a decision to proceed with second-phase development of its Quebrada Blanca copper mine in Chile was still pending the resolution of environmental permitting issues and financing.
The company said it was in discussions with shareholders on financing alternatives for the $5.6-billion (U.S) project, including the possibility of bringing in a new funding partner.