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Nickel Asia to pay out dividends after profits grew nearly five-fold

MINER NICKEL Asia Corp. reported on Friday a 388% surge in profits to P1.48 billion in 2010, prompting it to declare dividends of 35 centavos per share to be paid out to stock holders on May 9.

The net income hike, a turnaround from the profit decline in 2009, was attributed to higher production and improved metal prices, a ranking official said.

Moving forward, Nickel Asia expects continued growth by yearend given "a higher nickel price in 2011 and higher sales volume…as demand for nickel ore remains very strong", it said in a disclosure to the local bourse.

It said it expects to start operations at its second nickel processing plant currently under construction in Surigao del Norte by mid-2013.

"Last year was our recovery period after we felt the effects of the global financial crisis in 2009," the company’s chief finance officer Emmanuel L. Samson said in a telephone interview.

Nickel Asia had seen net income fall by 64.79% in 2009, documents show.

But last year, nickel production rose 28.70% to 8.34 million wet metric tons (WMT) of both saprolite and limonite nickel ores in 2010 from 6.48 million WMT the previous year, the disclosure read.

Limonite ore volumes, meanwhile, reportedly increased by 12.28% to 5.12 million WMT from 4.56 million WMT for the same period and saprolite ore volume jumped almost 70% to 3.22 million WMT from 1.9 million WMT.

Climbing nickel prices have also contributed to the firm’s better financial performance last year, with the saprolite variety posting an average price of $9.60 per pound (lb) at the London Mercantile Exchange (LME) in contrast to the 2009 average price of $6.45/lb in 2009, the miner said without specifying resulting revenues.

These gains were whittled down by a 28% increase in total operating costs and expenses to P4.882 billion in 2010 "due to the increase in shipment volumes", the miner said.

The strong peso in 2010 also resulted in a transaction loss worth P444.3 million, Nickel Asia added.

The company’s financial report was not immediately made available.

Nevertheless, greater earnings led the board to declare cash dividends of 35 centavos per share to be paid out on May 9 for shareholders on record before April 11.

NAC shares last sold at P20.00 apiece on Friday, up 2.67% from Thursday’s P19.48. -- EJD/BWorld


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