Sierra Leone-focused iron ore miner African Minerals swung to an adjusted operating profit in 2013, helped by a strong ramp-up in production, but earnings missed analysts' estimates.
The company, which is the developer and operator of the Tonkolili mine, said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled $202.9m last year, compared with an EBITDA loss of $26.5m in 2012. The consensus forecast was $217m.
After taking depreciation and amortisation into account, the operating profit before special items came to $82.6m, from a loss of $27.9m.
During 2013, African Minerals completed the development of Tonkolili which saw the mine commence the ramp-up to 20m tonnes per annum (Mtpa). It produced 13.1Mt of iron ore last year, up from 5.1Mt, previously, while total ore shipped rose to 12.1Mt from 4.3Mt, as the company became the largest contributor to Sierra Leone's gross domestic product.
Revenues totalled $869.1m, compared with $286.6m of proceeds from ore sales in 2012 and ahead of the $865m estimate.
"2013 saw the completion of construction of Phase I at our Tonkolili iron ore mine in Sierra Leone," said Chief Executive Bernie Pryor. "The integrated mine, plant, rail, port and marine operations achieved the 20Mtpa run rate on several occasions in the year with ongoing optimisation producing a record fourth quarter for both mining and shipments."
The firm said that the first quarter has started "encouragingly" as it produced 5.3Mt of saleable product while exporting 4.6Mt, "becom[ing] the largest iron ore exporter in West Africa".
African Minerals expected to product 16-18Mt of iron ore in 2014.
Trading improved in the fourth quarter for Electrocomponents, the electronics and maintenance products maker, as accelerating overseas sales counterbalanced flat UK figures.
Overall, group sales for the period stood at 4%, meaning for the full year the company will post growth of 2%. With gross margins having remained stable, headline pre-tax profits will be in line with market expectations.
Chief Executive Ian Mason: "Sales trends across our International business, which has grown to comprise over 70% of group sales, have gradually improved as the year has progressed. This partly reflects the improvement in manufacturing Purchasing Managers Indices during the year, but we also believe that our International sales growth reflects share gains from our numerous smaller competitors."
Within International, Continental Europe grew by 5%, speeding up from the 3% growth in the first half of the year and 5% in the third quarter.
After significant impact of adverse weather conditions had held back sales in the previous two months, North American sales shot up 8% in the final months of the year, well up from the 3% growth in the previous nine months.
Asia Pacific grew by 7%, having been up 2% in the four previous months and flat in the first half.
During the fourth quarter, the FTSE 250 group said eCommerce sales continued to grow faster than the group as a whole, benefiting from improvements made to online functionality.
Group eCommerce sales growth was around 7%, resulting in eCommerce comprising around 59% of group sales in the quarter, up from 57% in the comparative period.