Mining services guide: Profits flow as explorers loosen purse strings
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If you want to know how the Australian resources sector is faring just look at how much cash the services companies are bringing in.
If recent financials — and share price growth — are anything to go by, the sector is looking much healthier — and it’s not just the majors that are profiting.
While heavyweight Ausdrill (ASX:ASL) witnessed a 163.5 per cent jump in its after-tax profit to $35.3 million for the first half of the 2018 fiscal year, smaller player Austin Engineering (ASX:ANG) completely turned its fortunes around by converting a loss into a $4 million post-tax profit.
In the past year, Austin’s share price has risen nearly 70 per cent. The company closed Tuesday at 27c.
“The tide has been rising over the last 12 months in terms of the general outlook for in particular copper, which is the main driver for commodity prices around the world and an indication of global growth,” managing director Peter Forsyth told Stockhead.
“If you look over the last four years, copper has been the bell weather of global economic activity and that’s heading north.”
The copper price has risen substantially over the past few years and is now trading at around $US7110 per tonne — a level not seen since July 2014.
Austin beat its EBITDA, or earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation, forecast of $10 million to $12 million, bringing in $12.2 million.
Austin designs and manufactures customised dump truck bodies, buckets and ancillary products for contractors and miners of all shapes and sizes.
The company — which sells to big names like BHP, Rio Tinto and Freeport-McMoRan — has a presence in South East Asia, Australia and the Americas.
Meanwhile, industrial engineering group Engenco (ASX:EGN) more than doubled its first-half net profit after tax to $7.5 million from $2.9 million.
“Our power and propulsion business performed well as conditions in the Australian mining sector continued to improve,” managing director Kevin Pallas said.
Mining contractor NRW Holdings (ASX:NWH) increased its net profit by 32.6 per cent to $15.3 million after revenues jumped 82.5 per cent.
In the past 12 months, Engenco’s share price has spiked over 205 per cent, while NRW shares are up 129 per cent.
While miners are definitely starting to spend more, they are more measured in their approach than they were five years ago, according to Mr Forsyth.
This has meant operating cost is still a key focus for miners despite the uptick in commodity prices.
“Productivity is the biggest sensitivity factor when it comes to lowering operating cost on a cost per tonne basis and the more material you haul the lower your cost per tonne and our bodies help them do that,” Mr Forsyth said.
“It was quite a frantic, frenetic pace in 2012, but now they’re more circumspect I think in how they do spend money, but they are starting to spend money in order to reduce their cost per tonne.
“I think it’s fair to say miners are loosening the purse strings a little bit because there are some significant savings.”
Austin says it has witnessed a significant increase in tender activity and other opportunities compared to recent reporting periods.
The group’s current order book and committed work represents around 70 per cent of expected revenues for the full 2018 financial year.