UPDATE 1-Miner Amplats warns wage demands could mean more cuts
* Diluted headline H1 EPS at 512 cents vs 272 cents
* Results boosted by weaker rand
* Points to difficult second half ahead
JOHANNESBURG, July 22 (Reuters) - Anglo American Platinum , the world's top producer of the precious metal, has suspended dividend payments and warned on Monday it could not afford "unrealistic" wage rises, as it continues to battle loss-making mines and climbing costs.
Amplats, as the unit of miner Anglo American is known, almost doubled its headline profit - but that was largely due to a weakening in the South African rand. The group continued to burn cash in the first six months of 2013.
Amplats' Rustenburg mine northwest of Johannesburg, which has seen violent wage protests, bled 1 billion rand ($102 million) in the six-months to end-June and the company's chief executive, Chris Griffith, said Amplats could not meet union wage hopes.
"The rand bailed us out, if that had not been the case we would have been in a lot more trouble," Griffith said on a conference call. "There is not a chance that we can give in to unrealistic wage demands."
He added the demands could spark further job cuts.
Amplats, battling to return to sustainable profits, plans to lay off up to 6,000 workers and close three shafts to scale back production. But it is also battling with unions asking it to more than double the basic wage for miners.
The company, which is 80 percent held by Anglo American said on Monday that diluted headline earnings totalled 512 cents per share compared with 272 cents a year earlier. The rand currency fell about 17 percent during the period, a boon for Amplats and other South African exporters.
"While the headline earnings look like there is an improvement, it is a low-quality number," said Justin Froneman, platinum analyst at SBG Securities in Johannesburg.
"What worries us is the estimated 2.6 billion rand ($264.01 million) restructuring costs that are likely to come through in the second half."
While refined platinum production was flat year-on-year at 1.2 million ounces, the company has negative net-cash flow and its net debt is inching higher.
But Amplats is not alone. In the face of unrelenting cost escalation, platinum producers have been forced to shift priorities and sector-wide asset reviews have seen older shafts shut and growth projects shelved.
"At current spot prices, about 60 to 65 percent of the industry is underwater," said Froneman.
Shares of Amplats were up 0.6 percent at 300.70 rand, in line with a slightly firmer Top-40, South Africa's benchmark equity index.