The large miners do a fairly good job of managing expectations ahead of financial results, so disappointing half-year numbers from Rio Tinto (RIO) brought no great surprises. That's despite posting the lowest first-half earnings in more than a decade and a 58 per cent cut in the half-year dividend, although the latter was less than consensus forecasts had suggested.
Newly installed chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques (or "J-S Jacques" as he is referred to in Rio's corporate literature) pledged to keep an "unrelenting" focus on shareholder value, a commitment most apparent in the period in the $0.6bn (£0.45bn) improvement in sustainable operating cash costs. That failed to halt the damaging effect of lower prices, which shaved 51 and 36 per cent from the underlying cash profit of the copper & diamonds and aluminium divisions. The core iron ore division fared slightly better, dropping $572m from 2015's already subdued contribution of $4.01bn. Despite this volatility, Rio managed to generate $3.2bn in operating cash, although a drop in net debt beyond consensus forecasts caused the cash position to thin by $1.1bn.