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Global miner Rio Tinto reported an 11 percent rise in annual iron ore shipments on Tuesday, roughly in line with its full-year guidance of 340 million tons, and said it expected to boost production and shipments in 2016.
Rio's strong output, low costs and sharp cuts in capital spending are expected to help it maintain or raise its dividend at least for the next 12 months, in stark contrast to its rivals, even with commodities prices mired at multi-year lows.
"We will continue to focus on disciplined management of costs and capital to maximise cash flow generation throughout 2016," Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said in a statement, who last week told staff the outlook for commodities is "sobering".
Iron ore shipments in the fourth quarter rose 10 percent on a year earlier to 91.3 million tons, including its co-owners' volumes, and again outpaced quarterly production as Rio Tinto ran down stockpiles.
Rio Tinto confirmed analysts' view that it would have to step up output in 2016 to keep up shipments.
It said it expects to produce and ship around 350 million tons of iron ore, including co-owners' volumes, implying a 7 percent increase in production and 4 percent rise in shipments.
Rio Tinto said it expects its share of mined copper production to rise to between 575,000 and 625,000 tons in 2016 from 504,000 tons last year.
Mined copper output fell 13 percent to 111,000 tons in the fourth quarter of 2015, well below a Goldman Sachs forecast of 140,000 tons.