The year 2019 was a strong financial year for the business. Free cash flow, before growth capital, increased by 106% to $448m, while cash flow from operating activities increased by 22% to $1,047m. Measures have been taken during the year to instill more financial discipline and follow a clear framework for allocating capital.
We have and will continue to prioritise the reduction of debt with excess cash as we believe that maintaining lower debt will help us to be more sustainable through the cycle. We ended the year with adjusted net debt to adjusted EBITDA improved to 0.91 times, well below our targeted level of 1 times through the cycle.
- * The information included in the Chief Financial Officer’s review is provided for the AngloGold Ashanti group (i.e. including South Africa), unless otherwise indicated. Following the announcement of the South African asset sale, the South African operations are recorded as discontinued operations in the financial results. Comparative results have been restated where required.
Reinvestment in our core asset base has enabled us to optimise output and plan for the future with Ore Reserves outside of South Africa replenished.
The rising cash flows from our operations has grown our dividend by 57% to 11 US cents per share. Our dividend policy, which pays 10% of free cash flow, before growth capital, at the discretion of the board of directors, reflects a discipline in our capital allocation process: we carve out cash for shareholders before we look at growth options. Our investment in growth has culminated in the historic pouring of first gold at Obuasi in December 2019, bringing Phase 1 of the redevelopment project to a conclusion on time and within budget.
Financial highlights of the year under review include:
- The group met 2019 full year guidance with production at 3.281Moz and All-in sustaining costs (AISC) of $998/oz (including $6/oz non-cash rehabilitation provision in Brazil as guided in the third quarter of 2019)
- Record production achieved at Kibali, Tropicana and Iduapriem, while Geita delivered the highest production in 14 years
- Free cash flow, before growth capital, increased by 106% to $448m, while cash flow from operating activities increased by 22% to $1,047m
- Adjusted net debt to Adjusted EBITDA improved to 0.91 times, with cash and cash equivalents at $463m
- The company reached agreements to sell the remaining South African assets and the Sadiola mine in Mali
- Dividend increased by 57% to approximately 11 US cents per share (165 ZAR cents per share up from 95 ZAR cents per share in the prior year).
Progress has been made on the sales processes announced. On 23 December 2019, the company announced that it had reached an agreement to sell its interest in the Sadiola Mine, while on 12 February 2020, the company announced that it had reach an agreement with Harmony to sell all its remaining South African assets and related liabilities. In Argentina, the sales process related to Cerro Vanguardia continues. The sales proceeds from these asset sales will be prioritised to debt reduction.
AngloGold Ashanti’s cash flows and earnings showed further growth in 2019, and for the seventh consecutive year, production, capital and all cost guidance metrics were met.
Cash flows from the business continue to improve, with free cash flow at $127m up 90% compared to 2018. Adjusted EBITDA in 2019 increased to $1,723m, versus $1,480m in 2018. Both metrics benefitted from the increased gold price received during 2019, partly offset by lower gold output, increased taxes and royalties. All-in sustaining costs (AISC) of $998/oz in 2019, compared to $976/oz in 2018, was impacted by a $6/oz non-cash impact from the revised rehabilitation provisions in Brazil, as required by new legislation promulgated during the third quarter of 2019. Excluding this impact, AISC increased by 2% year-on-year.
Basic loss for the year ended 31 December 2019 was $12m, or 3 US cents per share, compared with basic profit of $133m, or 32 US cents per share in 2018. Earnings were negatively impacted by the impairment of the South African assets associated with their held for sale accounting treatment ($385m, net of tax), higher rehabilitation provisions in Brazil ($15m, net of tax) and higher care and maintenance costs in South Africa and Ghana ($13m, net of tax). Excluding impairment charges, headline earnings were $379m, or 91 US cents per share, compared with $220m, or 53 US cents per share in 2018.
The group ended the year with a robust balance sheet, with improved cash flows contributing towards continued debt reduction. At the end of December 2019, the ratio of adjusted net debt to adjusted EBITDA was 0.91 times (1 times from continuing operations), below the targeted level of 1 times through the cycle and at the lowest level since 2012.
As at 31 December 2019, liquidity remains strong with $1.42bn undrawn on the $1.62bn US dollar Revolving Credit Facilities (RCFs) approximately R4.65bn available on the R5.65bn South African RCFs and other facilities, and cash and cash equivalents of $463m. In South Africa, we cancelled one of our South African RCFs totalling R1.4bn at the end of February 2020. Subsequent to year-end, we drew on the remainder of our US Dollar RCF to bolster our cash position as indicated later in the report.
The board approved a dividend of ZAR 165 cents per share (approximately 11 US cents per share), in line with the dividend policy based on 10% of free cash flow, before growth capital expenditure. This compares to a dividend of ZAR 95 cents per share (7 US cents per share) in 2018. The increase in the dividend reflects management's commitment to improving shareholder returns, while maintaining disciplined capital allocation. The board is satisfied that subsequent to the dividend declaration, the company has adequate balance sheet flexibility and sufficient funding facilities available to withstand market volatility.
Maintaining a reliable track record of consistent and prudent behaviour as custodians of shareholder capital continues to be central to our approach. Capital allocation continues to remain disciplined and focused on improving value creation through effective management and without placing undue financial or operating risk on the business. This approach does not prioritise scale but rather focuses on sustainable margins and free cash flow growth to improve total returns to shareholders over time.
Whilst noting the establishment of two global mega goldproducing entities after the mergers of Barrick/Randgold and Newmont/Goldcorp, the group continues to favour organic opportunities to create value, over those available through acquisition. The company’s equity remains an important asset that should be protected while efforts are undertaken to close the considerable valuation gap that exists with global industry peers. We continue to jealously guard our equity and have focused on self-funding growth projects over the last number of years with our ongoing capital needs not requiring the issue of additional equity. The last significant issue of equity occurred in 2013 when we issued 18,140,000 shares to settle the remainder of the outstanding 6% Mandatory Convertible Bonds.
Within this framework of self-funding we continue to target a return of 15% through the cycle at a long-term real gold price of $1,200/oz on our new investments, using conservative discount rates that account for specific jurisdictional and operating risks.
The integrity of the balance sheet is fundamental to the long-term health of the business and enforces disciplined decision-making in allocating capital. This means that the company will continue to rank and prioritise its investments, assessing them not only on their returns but also on their affordability with respect to maintaining leverage ratios at or around targeted levels. Importantly, the company will weigh these competing priorities and consider the full suite of financing opportunities available when determining whether or not to proceed with an investment.
Margin improvement – an ongoing priority
As in prior years, we continued to focus our efforts on driving operational excellence and cost efficiencies across our business. Our efforts in the current year were supported by a higher gold price environment.
The group AISC margin improved to 28% in 2019 from 23% in 2018. For continuing operations, the margin has improved to 30% in 2019 from 26% in 2018.
Balance sheet strategy to enforce capital discipline
Our balance sheet strategy continues to enforce capital discipline, with adjusted net debt at $1.572bn, 5% lower than last year. Our adjusted net debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio of 0.91 times (1 times from continuing operations) reflects ample headroom to our 3.5 times debt covenant. Liquidity remains strong, providing good flexibility in a volatile climate.
As stated above, our liquidity remains strong with sufficient undrawn facilities. The company will continue targeting a lower adjusted net debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio of 1 times through the cycle. We believe this target level is sustainable, even as we invest inward, service debt obligations and pay dividends to shareholders at the discretion of the board of directors.
We remain strongly levered both to the gold price and currencies and we expect cash flow generation across the business to continue to benefit from prevailing market conditions as well as from efficiency and operational improvements in our business.
Subsequent to year end, on 18 March 2020, the Company drew $900m under the US dollar RCF to fund the repayment of the $700m 5.375% bonds maturing on 15 April 2020 and to support short-term liquidity in the event of continuing disruptions in the global financial markets as a result of the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (covid-19). In addition, a further $450m was drawn down on the remainder of the US Dollar RCF and received on 27 March 2020.
Continued positive cash flow momentum
We continue to follow a balanced approach, with a focus on positive free cash flow generation while reinvesting in our portfolio. Our dividend policy remains to pay out 10% of free cash flow, before growth capital, at the discretion of the board. Subject to this discretion, our dividend policy represents a key element of our disciplined capital allocation.
Free cash flow before growth capital was $448m (2018: $278m, after the adjustment for South African retrenchment payments of $61m). The board approved a dividend, representing a 57% increase in dollar terms.
The continuation of the dividend is a reflection of our capital discipline and commitment to improving shareholder returns on the back of sustainable free cash flow generation. Importantly, we will maintain adequate balance sheet flexibility and utilise our cash flows and available facilities to fund our ongoing capital and operational requirements.
|1. Continued focus on sustainable free cash flow generation|
Free cash flow of $127m for the full year represents a 90% improvement year on year (2018: $67m and 2017: $1m). All the group’s major operating mines were cash positive. Free cash flow was bolstered by higher gold prices which offset lower production, higher capital expenditure, increased profit based taxes and the slower cash repatriation from Kibali in the DRC.
Although we received $75m in dividends from Kibali for the year, our attributable share of cash balances in-country increased to $202m as at 31 December 2019 (2018: $53m). Our joint venture partner, Barrick, who is the operator at Kibali, continues to engage with the government of the DRC with regards the cash lock-up in-country.
|2. Improve margins||Our margins for total cash costs, AISC, and all-in costs (AIC) on revenue from continuing operations were 46%, 30% and 17%, respectively. Except for AIC, the margins reflected increases from 2018 (total cash costs: 42%; AISC: 26%; and AIC: 18%). Margins were positively affected by the higher gold price received during the year, with AIC marginally down year-on-year as a result of the increased growth capital expenditure incurred during the year relating to the Obuasi redevelopment project.||
|3. Maintain strict cost and capital discipline|
The group’s total cash costs were largely steady with total cash costs of $776/oz in 2019, $3/oz higher than $773/oz achieved in 2018. Total cash costs were favourably impacted by weaker currencies, which assisted in offsetting inflationary pressures in the emerging economies that we operate in, particularly in Argentina and South Africa. The main cost drivers contributing to inflationary pressures related to mining contractors, labour and consumables, which are all predominately indexed to inflation.
Total cash costs were further adversely impacted by lower production, predominately grade impacts and lower planned by-product revenue at Cerro Vanguardia. Operational efficiency improvements continue to be a key group focus to mitigate operational cost pressures.
AISC of $998/oz in 2019, were 2% higher than $976/oz achieved in 2018. AISC for 2019 include a non-cash $6/oz for additional environmental rehabilitation obligations in Brazil pertaining to tailings facilities, under the new legislation enacted in August 2019, following Vale’s Brumadinho failure in January 2019. Lower sustaining capital was largely offset by IFRS 16 lease costs, higher rehabilitation provisions and other non-cash costs.
Total capital expenditure (including equity accounted investments) increased by 13% to $814m in 2019, compared to $721m in 2018. This included project capital expenditure of $321m relating to Obuasi, Siguiri, Tropicana, Mponeng and Quebradona in 2019, compared to $150m invested in growth projects in 2018. Sustaining capital expenditure decreased to $493m in 2019, compared to $571m in 2018.
|4. Advance Obuasi for first production by the end of 2019|
The Obuasi redevelopment project achieved its first pour of gold on 18 December 2019, signalling the successful redevelopment of the mine into a modern, mechanised mining operation since mining activities were suspended five years ago. At the end of 2019, the overall project was 77% complete. The Phase 1 ramp up is now in progress to achieve 2,000 tonnes per day.
Phase 2 of the project, to achieve a capacity of 4,000 tonnes per day, is firmly on schedule and within budget with commissioning scheduled for the end of 2020. See <Regional review: Continental Africa> section for more detail on the project.
|5. Complete asset sale processes|
Processes to sell assets in Mali, South Africa and Argentina progressed during the year. On 23 December 2019, the company announced that it had reached an agreement to sell its interest in the Sadiola Mine to Allied Gold for an attributable cash consideration of $52.5m.
After the financial year end, on 12 February 2020, the company announced it had reached an agreement with Harmony to sell all its remaining South African producing assets and related liabilities with expected proceeds of around $300m, subject to subsequent performance, and with additional proceeds if the West Wits assets are developed below current infrastructure.
Both the Mali and South African sales processes are expected to close in 2020.
Subsequent to the announcement of the sale of the South African assets, Moody's affirmed a credit-positive impact of the sale citing another positive step in strategy to streamline the portfolio and lower the long-term cost structure of the business.
In Argentina, the sales process related to Cerro Vanguardia continues. This process is at an advanced stage and we hope to make a decision whether to accept a firm offer or to terminate the sales process in the second quarter of 2020. Cerro Vanguardia continues to be a strong contributor to the group, with 225,000oz produced in 2019 at an AISC of $859/oz, generating gross profits of $108m.
|6. Ongoing stakeholder engagement|
The group’s strategy is underpinned by our overall objective, which is to deliver quality production, responsibly, with an emphasis on widening margins, extending mine lives and improving the portfolio. This forms the basis of our continuing and ongoing stakeholder engagement, whether with investors, governments, communities, or employees.
The global enhanced interest in environmental, sustainability and governance disciplines (ESG) for companies operating in the extractive activities industries has become a focus for investors and it receives considerable attention from the group. Maintaining and enhancing our licence to operate through effective ESG practices, is critical to achieving our objectives.
|7. Advance Colombian projects up the value curve|
At Quebradona, the company continued with its feasibility study, after the declaration of a reserve at the end of 2018. It is expected that the results of the feasibility study will be announced towards the end of 2020. During the year, drilling focused on geotechnical programmes for site infrastructure, the tunnel trace, above the mine area and the crusher chamber.
On 16 September 2019, the company announced that it had reached an agreement with B2Gold, its joint venture partner at the Gramalote Project in Colombia, whereby B2Gold will fund an investment and exploration programme in 2020 to the value of $13.9m, in order to earn back to a 50:50 joint venture and assume management of the project with effect from 1 January 2020. This agreement provides additional momentum to the Gramalote Project, one of AngloGold Ashanti’s two advanced exploration projects in Colombia. At the time of the announcement, B2Gold owned a 48.3% stake, with AngloGold Ashanti holding the remaining 51.7%. B2Gold and AngloGold Ashanti have agreed on a budget for the feasibility study on the Gramalote Project of approximately $37m. As manager, B2Gold plans to continue the feasibility work with the goal of completing a final feasibility study by the end of 2020.
Looking ahead to 2020
We have a number of key catalysts we intend to focus on in 2020. Our strong focus on ESG related matters is paying dividends and we will specifically continue our focus and attention on improving our safety record. We have made good progress in streamlining the portfolio and our continued focus in 2020 will be on the successful commissioning of Phase 2 of the Obuasi project by the end of the year. Simultaneously, we expect that our planned increased Ore Reserve Development and Mineral Resource Conversion over the course of 2020 and 2021 will provide positive results in the medium term. Our additional anticipated sustaining capital spend for 2020 is estimated at $30/ oz. We expect to close on all the ongoing, announced divestment processes.
We expect to continue to improve cash flows, potentially resulting in further increases in our dividend pay-outs. Our leverage is currently at the target level we would like to maintain through the cycle and, given the strong fundamentals in place currently, we expect further improvement on this leverage. We aim to achieve all of this while remaining disciplined in managing costs and capital expenditure, thereby optimising current operating margins.
COVID-19 virus pandemic, guidance and liquidity
At the date of the approval of these financial results, the COVID-19 virus outbreak continues to spread across the globe and contributes to economic instability in global financial markets. The outbreak was declared a global pandemic on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and since then has resulted in numerous governments and other organisations, including AngloGold Ashanti, introducing a variety of measures to curb the spread of the virus. To date, we have taken a number of proactive steps to protect our employees, our host communities and business, in line with the company’s values, guidelines and advice provided by the WHO and within the requirements of the countries in which we operate. The health and wellbeing of our employees and our host communities remains a key priority. Cases of the outbreak have been reported in all of the jurisdictions in which we operate, and it may lead to a prolonged restriction on the movement of people and continued requirement for people to self-isolate or be quarantined.
A cross-functional team, including operations, technical, finance, health, community, government relations and other support disciplines, is helping to guide the response to the crisis. The company has for some time employed increased screening and surveillance of employees, stopped non-essential travel, instituted mandatory quarantine for arriving travelers and increased hygiene awareness across its operations, in addition to a range of other measures to mitigate the risks presented by the virus. It has also worked with local communities to help bolster their responses to the outbreak. These initiatives have complemented government responses in each of its operating jurisdictions.
As a precaution against the potential effects of the pandemic on our ability to secure spares and consumables, our supply chain teams have proactively placed orders to build increased safety stocks on critical items at our operations. Specific inventories depend on the level of risk identified in each region, lead time considerations, and storage capacity. In general, we are targeting inventories of three to six months on primary consumables, while recognising we have the support of strategic partnerships with key suppliers who themselves are maintaining inventories in the respective regions for many critical items.
More specifically, the near-term supply chain outlook remains positive, while mid to long term uncertainty (i.e. 4 to 8 months) is being actively managed as follows:
- We are pro-actively placing orders to increase safety stocks on critical consumable items at our operations.
- We have strong supplier relationships and a globally diversified supply base which minimises the risk of global interruptions.
- Potential supply chain risks are currently limited to base metals and steel sourced from China impacting grinding media required at our operations. However, we do not rely solely on Chinese steel for our grinding media.
- Minimal risks have been identified thus far for the supply of mining equipment over the next 12 months, however, we are starting to see lead times increasing.
- We have noted lead times extending for lower value protective gear and equipment, however, alternative sources for these items have been identified.
We are proactively managing the gold shipments logistics through alternative flight routes and air charters due to cancellation of flights by certain airlines and closure of ports in various jurisdictions in order to avoid shipment delays of gold doré bars to refineries.
Any self-imposed or government-mandated lockdowns may disrupt the company’s activities and operations and even lead to a full or partial temporary suspension of the company’s mining operations in those jurisdictions. On 21 March 2020, following the Argentinian government’s decision to impose a nationwide lockdown (quarantine) until 31 March 2020, including temporary travel restrictions, border closings and suspension of most industries, Cerro Vanguardia was required to temporarily suspend mining activities.
On 23 March 2020, the South African government announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown, effective from midnight on 26 March 2020, resulting in the temporary suspension of mining activities of the company’s South African operations particularly Mponeng, and the partial suspension of mining activities at Mine Waste Solutions (MWS) and Surface Operations.
On 26 March 2020, the State of Goiás, in Brazil, extended a set of restrictions on the operation of non-essential business to include mining. These restrictions are set to run through to 4 April 2020. Serra Grande will temporarily suspend its operations.
The current impact of all of the suspended operations is expected to be about 30,000oz to 40,000oz, or less than 2% of annual production. In these countries, the suspension of mining activities will continue for the period during which the respective restrictions remain in force.
The rest of AngloGold Ashanti’s mines in its diversified portfolio of 14 assets in nine countries, continue to operate. For the sites where production has been suspended, plans for a safe and smooth ramp-up, and for safely regaining part of the delayed production, are being developed.
The pandemic, if prolonged, would have a wide range of impacts, including the direct consequences of the virus on the health of employees and communities, but also the consequent restrictions to travel and work put in place by governments to slow its spread. There would also be indirect consequences, including the reduced ability to effectively move people, supplies and equipment to sites. These may cause production interruptions through further suspensions of mining activities or delays to projects. We are in the process of designing the necessary contingency plans to mitigate these risks.
The Company had a good start to the year, and notwithstanding the suspended production in South Africa and Argentina remains well on track to meet its annual guidance. Nonetheless, given the uncertainties with respect to future developments, including duration, severity and scope of the covid-19 pandemic and the necessary government responses to limiting its spread, the board has decided to withdraw its market guidance for 2020 published as part of its preliminary condensed consolidated financial results on 21 February 2020, at this time.
We will continue to focus on the necessary steps to protect people, work to meet production targets and secure the longer-term future of the business during this period of uncertainty.
We are implementing cash conservation measures, including focused capital prioritisation and reducing non-essential spending across the business.
The company has drawn down $1.4bn on its US dollar RCF to cater for the $700m bond redemption due mid-April 2020 and to provide additional liquidity headroom. After the drawdowns, cash on hand is about $1.8bn (excluding cash lock-up positions at Kibali and Sadiola, where AngloGold Ashanti’s combined share totals about $300m).
Management will continue to take a prudent and proactive approach to managing the group’s liquidity, which may include procuring additional credit facilities or debt over and above its current facilities.
In summary, priorities for 2020 are:
- Continued focus on sustainability and safety improvements
- Target increased reserve conversion through additional investment in Ore Reserve Development and Mineral Resource Conversion
- Aim to successfully complete divestment processes
- Obuasi phase 2 commissioning complete by year-end
- Optimise margins and cash conversion
- Enforce capital discipline in a rising gold price environment
- Proactively manage the emerging risks relating to the Corona virus pandemic from an operational, liquidity, working capital and supply chain perspective
- Focus on cash conservation measures including reducing corporate costs and AISC
- Pursue optimal financing alternatives for the group
I wish to record my gratitude to the broader finance team across the group which includes the financial reporting, tax, treasury, information management, global supply chain and internal audit functions. These functions work together seamlessly to ensure that we proactively manage risk, ensuring that we have robust financial systems in place to maintain a strong internal control environment whilst enabling relevant, timely financial reporting that inform business decisions. Our strong track record of achieving our financial KPIs is testimony to the strong calibre of our financial team. I look forward to the year ahead with enthusiasm, focusing on our strategic objectives and improving returns to our shareholders.
Chief Financial Officer
27 March 2020