UPDATE 2-Profit tumbles but departing Anglo boss has no regrets
* Dividend up 15 percent, helps shares
* 2012 operating profit down 44 percent
* Underlying earnings down 54 percent
LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Anglo American saw 2012 underlying earnings halve and its bottom line dip into the red, as profits fell across all units and the global miner wrote $4 billion off the value of its flagship Minas Rio iron ore project in Brazil.
The company promised it would be more cautious in its spending in future but departing chief executive Cynthia Carroll, one of several mining executives to have fallen foul of investors angry over perceived errors and poor returns, said she had no regrets.
Anglo came in within market forecasts with a 44 percent drop in operating profit to $6.2 billion. The miner also sought to pacify investors with a 15 percent increase in its dividend, which helped lift its shares almost 2 percent at the open.
After the impact of impairments including the hit to both Minas Rio and Anglo's bruised platinum unit, however, the loss attributable to shareholders totalled $1.5 billion.
Minas Rio, where delays and permit troubles have driven costs to more than three times original estimates, has been seen as Anglo's most significant failure of recent years. Anglo had already said last month that it would write $4.6 billion off the value of both Minas Rio and platinum projects.
Carroll, who departs at the end of next month to be replaced by Australian Mark Cutifani, said on Friday she had simply been doing her job.
"We did not go after a huge acquisition, or an enormous company. We did not have attempted acquisitions and then failed acquisitions, like some of our competitors. What we did do, and this was the mandate I was given when I arrived, was to pursue iron ore," she told reporters.
"Minas Rio is a resource that has increased fourfold since we have gone into it and it is going to be bigger. The quality of this resource is phenomenal."
Anglo is expected to hit a spending high point this year, thanks to Minas Rio and Australian coking coal project Grosvenor. That will ease from $7.5 to $8 billion in 2013 to between $6.5 and $7 billion in 2014 as the miner progresses to new projects including copper operation Quellaveco in Peru.
Projects like Quellaveco and coal asset Revuboe in Mozambique, being built from scratch, have come under scrutiny after the expensive overruns at Minas Rio and rival Rio Tinto's costly mistakes at its own operation in Mozambique. But Carroll promised the company had heard shareholders' concerns and would proceed with caution, adding partnerships would be considered for complex, greenfield projects.
"We will have to be that much more selective about where we are going to spend our money. The shareholders have spoken, it is clear they are looking at the very short term and we have to strike the right balance," she told analysts.
Earnings fell across the board for Anglo in 2012, after what the company said was one of the toughest years both for it and the industry as weak prices and higher costs took their toll. Both iron ore and copper, major contributors to profit, fell by more than 30 percent, hampered by strikes in South Africa and operational troubles at Anglo's Latin American copper mines.
Operating profit from iron ore fell by 33 percent to $2.95 billion, as lower prices added to losses linked to a strike at unit Kumba Iron Ore's Sishen mine in South Africa. It contributed almost 50 percent of Anglo profit, more than in 2011 as other units like coking coal shrank even further.
Iron ore prices plunged to three-year lows below $87 in September last year, though they have since recovered.
Copper, meanwhile, proved another tough spot as production challenges at Anglo's Los Bronces and Collahuasi operations drove up costs. Operating profit fell 31 percent.
One bright spot on costs was coking coal, where although profits plunged 66 percent Anglo was able to reduce costs in the second half by 20 percent versus the first half.
South African strikes, particularly in platinum, have been a large part of Anglo's troubles and its Anglo American Platinum unit posted its first annual loss earlier this month.
Diamonds, where Anglo took control of De Beers last year, also provided little cheer, with a 45 percent drop in operating profit on a 100 percent basis, as demand weakened. De Beers had was forced to allow its buyers - sightholders - to delay purchases, driving down sales.