UPDATE 1-Anglo reports 45 percent leap in earnings, cuts debt

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LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Mining company Anglo American reported a 45 percent increase in annual earnings, halved its net debt and said it would carry on improving a business its CEO said is "fundamentally different" from during the commodity downturn.

Anglo American was particularly hard hit by the commodity markets crash of 2015-16 and, along with Glencore, which on Wednesday announced results it said were the strongest yet, has recovered strongly as raw material prices have rebounded.

The South African-focused major has received a further spur from expectations that new President Cyril Ramaphosa will be supportive to the industry.

Anglo shares, which have risen more than 15 percent this year and outperformed rivals, slipped 2.5 percent by 0810 GMT.

The company reported underlying EBITDA of $8.8 billion, a 45 percent increase year-on-year.

Anglo American said it had delivered free cash flow of $4.9 billion, a 93 percent increase, helping it to roughly halve net debt.

It has also greatly improved productivity, increasing efficiency per person by 28 percent last year alone.

"Very simply put, we have done what we said we would do," Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American, told reporters on a conference call.

"Anglo American is a fundamentally different business. We are more resilient. We are more competitive. We are delivering solid returns," he said. "Our intention is to keep improving the business from the base we have established today.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Adrian Croft/Keith Weir)