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Glencore posts $2.6 bn loss and suspends dividend

While the Swiss-based firm remained profitable on an operating basis -- $1.5 billion in adjusted earnings before interest and taxes -- it booked impairment charges of $3.2 billion.

FILE: A picture taken on 10 October 2015 shows the logo of Glencore at the Swiss commodity trading giant's headquarters in Baar, central Switzerland. Picture: AFP.

ZURICH - Mining and commodities trading giant Glencore posted Thursday a net loss of $2.6 billion for the first half of the year and suspended dividend payments to shareholders as it took massive coronavirus-related charges.

While the Swiss-based firm remained profitable on an operating basis -- $1.5 billion in adjusted earnings before interest and taxes -- it booked impairment charges of $3.2 billion.

Companies must reevaluate the value of their assets regularly in light developments, and many firms have posted huge impairment charges as a result of lockdowns imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Glencore said it booked the charge as "a result of lower commodity prices related to the economic uncertainty arising from the COVID-19 pandemic".

It said the crisis pushed down the value of the thermal coal, oil and zinc it produces as well as expectations concerning their long-term operations.

During the first half of last year Glencore posted a net profit of $226 million.

"The outlook remains uncertain in the short term," chief executive Ivan Glasenberg said in a statement.

Despite Glencore's positive cash flow and ample liquidity, he said "the board has concluded that it would be inappropriate to make a distribution to shareholders in 2020" and the company would instead pay down its debt, which climbed during the first half the year.

Like many banks whose trading units profited from the volatility in the markets, Glencore's commodity trading operations did well, more than doubling adjusted earnings before interest and tax changes to a record $2.0 billion.

But adjusted operating earnings before charges tumbled by 42% to $2.6 billion in the mining and energy unit because of both the lower commodity prices and operations being halted at some of its mines.

Glencore said however that its diversified commodity portfolio "positions us well to play a key role in the next upward economic cycle".

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