Geneva (AFP) - Mining giant Glencore Xstrata reported a sharp improvement in first-half performance on Wednesday, marking a big switch back into profit.
The group, which came into being with a mega merger last year, said it had made a net profit of $1.72 billion during the first half of 2014, up from a $9.39-billion loss a year earlier.
The deep loss during the first half of 2013 was largely due to massive write-downs after Swiss commodities group Glencore's merger with Switzerland-based mining company Xstrata.
Cost-cutting since then had allowed the company to return to growth and to grow its cash holdings, it said.
During the six-month period, Glencore Xstrata saw an eight-percent rise in its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) to $6.46 billion, which it largely put down to the Xstrata acquisition.
"Glencore continued to make decisive progress in delivering on the potential created by the Xstrata acquisition over the first half of 2014," company chief executive Ivan Glasenberg said in the statement.
"We look to the future with optimism based on our strong starting point and our culture of entrepreneurialism and hard work to leverage tightening commodity fundamentals," he added.
The company acknowledged that commodity prices remained low, but stressed that this was not due to weak demand but rather excessive supply -- a trend it anticipated would soon turn.
Glasenberg pointed out that prices for nickel and zinc had already increased significantly since the beginning of the year, adding that he expected most other commodities, with the exception of iron ore, to soon follow suit.
In a separate announcement, the company acknowledged its zinc production had slipped 11 percent during the first half of the year to 650,400 tonnes, largely due to the closure of its exhausted Canadian Perseverance and Brunswick mines.
It also saw nickel production drop eight percent to 49,100 tonnes.
Copper output jumped 13 percent to 714,000 tonnes, while Glencore's crude oil production soared 41 percent to 14 million barrels.
Glasenberg said the company would raise its interim dividend to share holders by 11 percent to six cents per share.
Glencore also said it had finalised its sale of the Las Bambas copper mines in Peru to a Chinese consortium for the net sum of $6.5 billion, as well as its acquisition of Caracal Energy, a Chad-focused exploration company, for $1.6 billion.
And it said that it, in line with a previously announced share-buy-back programme, it would return $1.0 billion in capital to shareholders over the next six months.
Following the news, the company saw its share price rise 0.39 percent to 360.45 pence in morning trading on the London stock exchange.