Higher ore prices push Nickel Asia’s 2020 income

Published March 12, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Thanks to higher ore export prices, listed mining firm Nickel Asia Corporation has booked a surge in its income last year despite the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

In a regulatory filing, Nickel Asia informed the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) that it reported an attributable net income (net of minority interests) of P4.07 billion in 2020, which is 51 percent compared to P2.68 billion reported in 2019.

Its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) also went up by 42 percent to P9.34 billion from the P6.54 billion booked in the prior year.

“Net income increased dramatically on the back of higher ore export prices,” Nickel Asia said.

During the period, the company exported a total of 10.0 million wet metric tons (WMT) of nickel ore in 2020, down 4 percent from 10.4 million WMT in 2019. However, ore export prices increased 45 percent from $23.52 per WMT of ore sold in 2019 to $33.99 per WMT in 2020.

“Demand for nickel ore did not slow down despite the pandemic. As Indonesia resumed its ban on direct export of nickel ore at the start of 2020, we realized higher prices for our ore exports,” Nickel Asia President and CEO Martin Antonio G. Zamora said.

With respect to ore deliveries to Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation (THPAL) and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) HPAL plants, the pricing of which is linked to the London Metal Exchange (LME), the company delivered 8.2 million WMT in 2020 at an average price of $6.22 per pound of payable nickel.

This compares to 8.4 million WMT in 2019 at an average price of $6.23 per pound of payable nickel.

On a combined basis, the company sold a total of 18.2 million WMT at $22.46 per WMT and 18.8 million WMT at $16.69 per WMT in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

Nickel Asia explained that the significant improvement in the realized nickel price of the combined ore exports and ore deliveries to the two plants in 2020 more than offset the slight decline in sales volume and the less favorable Peso to US Dollar exchange rate, resulting in total revenues increasing by 21 percent to P21.8 billion compared to P17.9 billion in 2019.

The company’s total operating cash costs also increased by 1 percent year-on-year to P10.68 billion from P10.73 billion in 2019.

On a per WMT sold basis, total operating cash costs increased to P587 per WMT compared to P570 per WMT in 2019. The realized Peso to U.S. Dollar exchange rate for ore sales was P49.15 in 2020 compared to P51.72 in 2019.

Nickel Asia is one of the largest nickel mining companies in the Philippines. In total, nickel ore together with the nickel by-products – mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide and scandium oxalate contributed P68.48 billion or 51.80 percent of the country’s total metals output in 2020.

Combined, the country’s metallic mineral production value ended 2020 on a positive note with a 1.13 percent gain from P130.74 billion in 2019 to P132.21 billion in 2020.

Gold earned the second spot in terms of share with P47.60 billion or 36.00 percent.  

Copper, on the other hand, was third accounting for P14.88 billion or 11.25 percent.  While the shared value of silver, chromite, and iron amounted to P1.26 billion which was less than 1 percent.