Ferrexpo PLC said Jan. 8 that total iron pellet production in the fourth quarter of 2018 rose 7.2% from the third quarter of 2018 to 2.85 million tonnes.
Production of 62% iron content pellets rose 18.2% quarterly to 197,920 tonnes, while 65% iron pellet output grew 6.5% to 2.65 Mt.
For full year 2018, total iron pellet production rose 1.6% year on year to 10.61 Mt; 65% iron pellets accounted for 9.92 Mt.
Total pellet production this year is projected to remain in line with 2018 output of 10.6 Mt due to ongoing maintenance. The full-year 2018 average cash cost of production is expected to be approximately US$44 per tonne, compared to US$33/t in 2017, due to higher energy prices and increased mining costs.
Sales volumes for 2018 are projected at approximately 10.2 Mt, down from 10.5 Mt in 2017, partially due to reduced barge shipments in the second half amid low water levels in the Danube river. "Slower than expected rail shipments in December 2018 and the timing of a capesize shipment falling into January 2019 also impacted sales volumes," Ferrexpo said, adding that it expects sale volumes to catch up in the first half of 2019.
Average prices received for its products grew 9% on a yearly basis in 2018 thanks to strong demand for higher-quality iron ore, including higher average pellet premiums.
Meanwhile, net debt as of 2018-end slid to approximately US$340 million, from US$403 million a year earlier.
The iron pellet producer declared a special interim dividend of 6.6 U.S. cents in December 2018, doubling from a 3.3-cent special dividend a year earlier.