Glencore posts first annual loss in four years as impairments bite

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Glencore reported its first annual net loss since 2015 on Tuesday after writing down $2.8 billion in coal, oil and copper assets.

The world's largest commodities trader has been hit by falling demand for coal and weaker prices in some of its key markets.

The $2.8 billion in impairments mainly related to the closure of its African copper operations, which suffered from low cobalt prices, the expiry of licenses in its Chad oil operations and weak demand for coal from Europe, which hit its Colombian operations.

"The amount of coal being consumed in the Atlantic is decreasing, right now, seaborne coal demand is about 70 million tonnes and I don't see a big recovery and it will continue to decrease," said Chief Executive CEO Ivan Glasenberg.

"The reserves are depleting in Colombia, by 2035, we won't have any production in Colombia."

Overall, the Anglo-Swiss miner reported a net loss of $404 million for 2019, compared to a profit of $3.41 billion a year earlier.

Core earnings or adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $11.6 billion beat analysts' estimates of $11.25 billion.

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Shares in Glencore were down 1.4% in London at 8:39 London time, the stock has underperformed its peers due to its exposure to coal and multiple corruption probes linked to its operations in Nigeria, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Glencore is cooperating with the investigations.

The company said its legal costs jumped to $159 million from $86 million in 2018.

The company cut the value of its oil business in Chad by $538 million after some mining licenses expired. Since 2015, it has booked impairments of $2.4 billion on assets in Chad.

In Colombia, Glencore runs two coal operations through its company Prodeco and owns a third of the Cerrejon coal mine. The business has been under pressure due to low prices for coal shipped from the region.

In 2019, Prodecos profits were down significantly as it invests near term in mine development activities, expected to increase the operations medium-term volume productivity and earnings prospects.