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Glencore profit more than doubles thanks to soaring coal

Soaring coal prices have generated record profits for the company. ( Image of Newlands Coal Complex, courtesy of Glencore)

Mining and commodities trader Glencore posted on Thursday record profit of $18.9 billion in the first half of 2022, more than doubling last year’s figure thanks to its booming thermal coal business.

Unlike rivals, including Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP, which bowed to investor pressure to exit fossil fuels, Glencore has continued mining coal, of which prices have reached record highs on the back of a global energy crunch unleashed by the war in Ukraine.

The Swiss firm’s coal division generated earnings of $8.9 billion in the first six months of the year. In comparison, copper brought in $3.3 billion and zinc $1.3 billion.

The company, which plans to run down its thermal coal mines by the mid-2040s, produces more than 100 million tonnes of coal a year at mines in Colombia, Australia and South Africa. It is Australia’s biggest coal producer with 25 mines in New South Wales, Queensland and other parts of the country

Its trading division’s half-year adjusted operating profit reached $3.7 billion, far exceeding the top end of its long-term annual outlook range of $3.2 billion.

The strong results will allow Glencore to return an additional $4.45 billion to shareholders in dividends and share buybacks, bringing total shareholder returns for the year to $8.5 billion.

Chief executive Gary Nagle warned that higher interest rates, inflation and a global economic slowdown were likely to reduce earnings in the second half of the year. But the long-term commodity outlook remains positive, he said.

Glencore forecasts adjusted earnings for 2022 of more than $32 billion.

A different company

Glencore admitted in May it paid bribes in numerous countries in Africa and Latin America during 2007 to 2018, and agreed to pay more than $1 billion to regulators in the US, UK and Brazil.

It still faces investigations from Dutch and Swiss regulators.

One US prosecutor leading the case locally said at the time that “bribery was built into the corporate culture” at Glencore.

Nagle, who took the post a year ago, rebuffed on Thursday that depiction, noting that the cases of misconduct were “specific incidents in specific markets in specific areas of the business.”

“Glencore is a different company today than it was when these unacceptable practices occurred,” he said in a statement.

The company started as early as 2016 to phase out the use of intermediaries — the agents and dealmakers once essential to cracking the toughest markets but which can serve as arms-length facilitators for bribery and corruption. Glencore has also put in place an ethics and compliance program and said it will disclose its marketing sales and purchase agents.

Nagle has said the firm also expanded its surveillance of communications and transactions across its entire trading business.