Implats harnessed the benefit of improved operational momentum and record-rand pricing for its primary products to deliver stellar results for the year ended 30 June 2021 (the period). This was achieved despite the challenges presented by Covid-19 and the erratic provision of essential services required to operate the Group’s globally diverse suite of mining and processing assets.
Implats recorded an improved safety performance with a 13% and 48% improvement in the total injury frequency and fatal injury frequency rates, respectively. Despite this, three employee fatalities were recorded at managed operations in the period.
6E concentrate production from mine-to-market operations, including the JVs at Two Rivers and Mimosa, increased by 16% to 2.93 million ounces, as production from managed operations (Impala Rustenburg, Zimplats, Marula and Impala Canada) improved 18% to 2.37 million ounces.
In the prior comparable period, total 6E production losses of 248 000 ounces in concentrate were directly attributed to the impact of Covid-19 on mine-to-market operations. Third-party 6E concentrate receipts increased by 9% to 358 000 ounces.
Gross refined output of 3.27 million 6E ounces increased by 16% (including saleable production from Impala Canada) with excess identified stock of 80 000 6E ounces expected to be released by the end of FY2022.
Inflationary pressures were compounded by additional expenditure due to Covid-19, once-off safety bonuses, development to improve mining flexibility and targeted spend on asset integrity at Impala Rustenburg. On a stock-adjusted basis, unit costs increased by 11% to R14 840 per 6E ounce, with Covid-related expenditure amounting to R563 million or R240 per 6E ounce.
Implats achieved record financial results, driven by higher sales volumes delivered into a robust rand PGM pricing environment. The increased profitability and strong free cash flow generation enabled further proactive debt reduction while providing strong shareholder returns in line with the Group’s capital allocation framework.
Revenue of R129.6 billion increased by 86%, gross profit increased by 130% to R53.5 billion and EBITDA of R61.4bn was achieved at an EBITDA margin of 47%.
An R1.5 billion IFRS 2 BEE charge was included in other expenses, arising on the refinancing of the BEE partners in Marula and the establishment of an employee share ownership trust. This charge has no tax impact and is included in both EBITDA and headline earnings.
Sustained improvements in both operational performance and prevailing and expected PGM pricing, resulted in the Group partially reversing prior impairments of R14.7 billion. This resulted in the inclusion of an after-tax benefit of R10.6 billion in profit for the year of R47.9 billion.
The Group generated R38.3 billion in free cash flow, after the capital investment of R6.3 billion at its managed operations, and ended the period with net cash after the debt of R23.5 billion and liquidity headroom of R30.9 billion.
PROSPECTS AND OUTLOOK
In calendar 2021, a moderation in investment demand is likely to result in the platinum market returning to surplus. The supply impact of the release of in-process inventory by South African producers will be compounded by the demand impact of the global semi-conductor chip shortage on automotive production. In the case of palladium, reduced Russian supply should result in a persistent but moderated deficit, while in rhodium a more balanced market in 2021 is expected before demand growth in 2022 results in continued market tightness and a fundamental deficit.
Internal planning to secure operational resilience during the pandemic has been ongoing since its emergence in early 2020 and vigilance in protecting the safety and health of employees will be maintained in FY2022 as the Group completes its planned vaccination programme for employees.
The operational focus in the near term will be on the continued optimisation of Impala Canada, leveraging enhanced mining flexibility established at Impala Rustenburg to deliver further growth and advancing projects across mine-to-market operations where Implats seeks to capitalise on inherent mining efficiencies and flexibilities at its low-cost assets to capture quick-to-market production growth to harness the benefit of a robust PGM pricing cycle.
The Group’s processing assets are a key competitive differentiator. The changing ore mix of its growing production profile and the aspiration to improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of its value chain will result in a series of studies aimed at proposing the optimal route for expansion.
Implats’ balance sheet is strong, with a substantial closing net cash balance and increased funding flexibility through upsized and refinanced facilities. In line with Implats’ capital allocation priorities, this will allow the Group to increase shareholder returns and fund the sustainable and efficient growth potential of its asset base.