Capital dilemmas top risk facing mining and metals companies in 2013–14

Capital allocation and access to capital plague majors and juniors alike in year ahead

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(Vancouver, June 13, 2013) Capital allocation and access to capital have rocketed to the top of the business risk list for mining and metals companies globally, up from number eight in 2012, in EY’s annual Business risks facing mining and metals 2013–14 report, released today.

“Capital dilemmas are at the forefront of mining and metals executives’ minds,” says Bruce Sprague, EY’s Canadian mining and metals leader. “Weaker metal prices, labour unrest and cost inflation have put pressure on companies’ earnings. At the same time, high levels of capital expenditure have squeezed margins and challenged the expected rates of return on growth projects.”

These challenges are threatening companies throughout the entire industry — both the majors’ long-term growth prospects and the short-term survival of cash-strapped juniors, adds Sprague.

“Majors now face the challenge of how best to allocate capital amid a new class of yield-hungry shareholders while juniors are attempting to navigate a capital desert — caused by the pullback of investors from riskier investments — not seen in more than a decade,” explains Sprague.

Companies are already reacting to these risks by focusing on greater capital discipline, increasing transparency around capital decisions and committing to maximizing returns and credit rating quality.

A pipeline of divestments is also building as companies seek to optimize their portfolios and recycle capital away from high-cost assets and into high-performing ones. Underperforming, high-cost or high-risk assets are also being marked for disposal as companies seek to remove costs and reallocate capital.

“Today’s miners face the profound risk that their decisions could damage growth prospects, destroying shareholder value over the longer term,” concludes Sprague. “Those with a disciplined approach to capital allocation decisions and a broad knowledge of available funding options and providers — at both ends of the market — will be best positioned for success.”

The following are the top 10 strategic business risks in the global mining and metals sector in 2013:

  1. Capital dilemma – allocation and access (8 in 2012)
  2. Margin protection and profitability improvement (4)
  3. Resource nationalism (1)
  4. Social licence to operate (6)
  5. Skills shortage (2)
  6. Price and currency volatility (7)
  7. Capital project execution (5)
  8. Sharing the benefits (9)
  9. Infrastructure access (3)
  10. Threat of substitutes (new)

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