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Anglo American Profit Up 46%, to Return $3 billion

Anglo American, the world's third-largest miner, said on Wednesday it would return $3 billion to investors as it posted a 46% rise in annual net profit, at the bottom end of forecasts.

Chief Executive Tony Trahar said in a statement he saw "a supportive climate for commodities in the near term".

Anglo made net profit of $5.47 billion in 2006, on revenue up 12% at $38.6 billion. The final dividend was raised 21% to 75 cents, making the total dividend 20% higher at 108 cents.

Booming global demand led by China's rapid industrialisation has sent the price of metals such as copper, zinc and aluminium soaring, taking miners' profits with them and leading to big cash returns to investors and raised dividends.

Anglo bought back $7.5 billion of shares last year.

Analysts' average forecast was for $5.88 billion net profit with the 12 forecasts found by Reuters Estimates ranging from $5.41 billion to $7.88 billion.

Looking ahead, Trahar said: "European markets are improving and emerging markets ... are growing strongly. Continued growth in these regions in 2007 is likely to largely offset weaker U.S. growth and thus the decline in global growth from the strong level achieved in 2006 should be fairly modest."

Anglo shares, which had outperformed other London-listed miners by 3.6% over the past 12 months, closed at 2,602 pence on Tuesday to value the business at 38.7 billion pounds ($75.5 billion).