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Mining firm Kenmare gets an extension from bank

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Kenmare's Moma titanium project in Mozambique

Kenmare's Moma titanium project in Mozambique

Kenmare's Moma titanium project in Mozambique

Irish mining firm Kenmare Resources has secured a one- month extension to deliver a budget for 2015 to lenders.

The company would have been deemed in default if it had missed a deadline that expired this month.

"Kenmare, the project lenders and Absa Bank - a member of Barclays - are in constructive discussions with a view to finalising the terms of a financing abatement, which Kenmare expects to be completed in the coming weeks," the company said in a trading update.

The Irish-listed company - once worth close to €1.5bn - has seen its market capitalisation collapse to just €114m as global demand for its key product - ilmenite - fell during the downturn.

Kenmare operates one of the biggest ilmenite mines in the world, in Mozambique.

It's the company's only operating asset. The Moma mine also produces rutile and zircon.

The company had bank loans totalling $337m at the end of December and cash equivalents of $21.8m.

It said it mined 32.1m tonnes of ore in 2014, a 42pc increase on 2013.

Ilmenite production rose 19pc to 854,600 tonnes, while zircon production rose 62pc to 50,800 tonnes.

Total shipments of finished products were 18pc higher at 800,000 tonnes during the year.

Managing director Michael Carvill said he was pleased to see production and shipments rise "notwithstanding challenging commodity markets".

"We expect further production growth this year as the mine benefits from upgrade work completed in the second half of 2014," he added.

The company acknowledged that the market for titanium feedstock was weak in the fourth quarter of 2014, with poor market conditions in China weighing on prices.

However, Kenmare said it expects demand for imported ilmenite in China to increase during 2015.

"Although growth rates in China are moderating, personal income levels continue to grow, fuelling increased discretionary spending as the government steers the economy towards a more consumer driven model, which should help increase demand for late cycle commodities such as titanium dioxide pigment," said Kenmare.

Titanium dioxide is used in a range of products from toothpaste, defence products, paper and paints.

"While production growth is to be welcomed, commentary on current market conditions, while not a surprise to us, provides a difficult backdrop to discussions with the banks, given limited visibility on any improvement in near term pricing," said analyst Gerry Hennigan at Goodbody Stockbrokers, who rates the stock as a 'hold'.

Irish Independent