Letter from the chairman & CEO (PDF - 112 KB)
Letter from the chairman & chief executive officer
The year ended 31 December 2005 saw a 6% production increase to 6.2 million ounces. This was largely attributable to the inclusion of a full year's production from the former Ashanti assets, in addition to an outstanding performance from Sunrise Dam in Australia in the first half of the year, and significant improvements at Morila in Mali and Mponeng in South Africa. Certain key assets, namely Obuasi in Ghana, Geita in Tanzania and Sunrise Dam in Australia, finished the year with anticipated lower grades. Plans are in place to move these operations toward optimal operational and cost levels, which should begin to be evident by the middle of 2006.
Earlier in the year, AngloGold Ashanti responded to the ongoing cost pressures associated with the rising costs of key mining inputs and the strength of our local operating currencies by implementing a stringent savings programme designed to eliminate $110 million in costs by the end of 2005. Pleasingly, the total savings realised from these initiatives was $160 million, well in excess of our target, which helped to limit cash cost escalation and resulted in a year-end total cash cost for the group of $281 per ounce.
AngloGold Ashanti endorses the need for the stringent accounting requirements imposed by various accounting authorities responsible for setting standards with the aim of transparency and international comparability. However, for observers not familiar with complex accounting detail, these requirements often have the result of potentially distorting reported performance. The table on pages 16 to 20 of this report is presented to assist shareholders to better understand our results.
Thus the substantial decline in operating profit from $102 million in 2004 to a loss of $36 million and a net loss of $160 million for 2005 must be seen in the light of the accounting treatment of hedging and the convertible bond. Adjusted headline earnings for 2005 amounted to $200 million.
A dividend of 62 South African cents (10 US cents) per share has been declared for the six months ended 31 December 2005. This represents a similar percentage payout to adjusted headline earnings, as was announced at the mid-year declaration, resulting in a total dividend for the year of 232 South African cents (36 US cents) per share. Given that the group is in a very high capital expenditure phase, we will continue to manage our approach to the dividend and capital allocation on the basis of prudent financial management.
Investor and speculator interest in gold led to the price reaching a 25-year high of $567 per ounce in January this year, with an annual average for 2005 of $445 per ounce, 9% higher than in 2004. The price continued to hold later in the year, despite a stronger dollar. AngloGold Ashanti continues to take a positive view of the gold price and, consequently, will continue to deliver into maturing forward sales contracts and to increase the proportion of our production which is exposed to the higher price for our product.
On 2 August, the company received notice from the South African Department of Minerals and Energy that it had been granted its application for new order mining rights in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. This development represented the culmination of a long but constructive engagement with government, in which AngloGold Ashanti sought to ensure that both the spirit and letter of the Mining Charter was fulfilled, bringing certainty to shareholders and offering employees and the communities in which we operate new opportunities for sharing in the wealth creation of our group. The creation of an Employee Share Ownership Programme is under consideration and is being discussed with employee groups.
We deeply regret that 25 employees lost their lives in workplace accidents during 2005. The safety of employees on all of our operations remains a very significant focus of management attention and resources on all of AngloGold Ashanti's operations and particularly in the more hazardous deep-level mines in South Africa. We are pleased to note, however, that the group's fatal injury frequency rate (FIFR) improved by 26% to 0.14 per million man hours worked, a 64% improvement since the group was established in its current form in 1998. It is noteworthy that AngloGold Ashanti's FIFR now compares favourably to those recorded in the mining industries of the United States, Canada and Australia. Management continues both to explore technical solutions to mining risks and to promote employee behaviour designed to improve workplace safety.
The group's South Africa region continues to make good progress in the campaign against HIV and AIDS, in respect of both prevention and treatment. During the year, health care staff conducted more than 10,000 voluntary counselling sessions with employees – 32% of our South African employees attended voluntary counselling clinics during the year, compared to 10% in 2004. This improvement is ascribed, at least in part, to the success of the mines' peer educator programme, which produced 265 new peer trainers during 2005. Some 3,200 patients are currently enrolled in treatment programmes and there are 934 who are currently on anti-retroviral therapy. More than 80% of patients who have been part of a treatment programme have returned to work.
Shareholders will be aware of the announcement in October 2005 by Anglo American plc and confirmed in a subsequent statement in February this year that it intended to reduce its shareholding in AngloGold Ashanti, retaining a significant shareholding in the medium term, in order to give this group greater flexibility to pursue its strategic agenda. This agenda is focused on improving the efficiency of existing operations, seeking new orebodies in under-explored gold regions of the world and seeking value-adding merger and acquisition opportunities. The group's growth strategy is particularly crucial at a time in the gold industry when the search for new gold production and access to additional ounces is paramount for all producers, as witnessed in the recent further consolidation in the gold industry. Despite this growth imperative, however, AngloGold Ashanti will not pursue the acquisition of ounces at the expense of shareholder value.
In this regard, our participation in the Boddington Expansion Project in Western Australia has received the approval of the board. Boddington, on a 100% basis, has project resources of 24.5 million ounces of gold and 1,040kt of copper, with reserves of 17.1 million ounces of gold and 658kt of copper. In respect of our 33.33% interest, we are looking at a current project life of more than 15 years with gold production of approximately 330,000 ounces per year and at a projected real cash cost of $209 per ounce for the first five years.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2006, we are expecting a modest production decline to between 5.9 million ounces and 6.1 million ounces, partly as a consequence of reduced production at Bibiani in Ghana and Savuka in South Africa. However, production is forecast to increase by six to eight per cent in 2007, as new projects, expansion programmes and anticipated grade improvements begin to have their expected effects.
We are pleased to welcome Reginald Bannerman who has joined the board recently. A Ghanaian lawyer who has spent more than 48 years in law practice, Reginald has a wealth of experience from which we can benefit.
Finally, we must note that Kelvin Williams retires from the board in May this year, after a long and distinguished career with AngloGold Ashanti and the Anglo American group of companies. Kelvin is widely regarded as a global authority on the gold market and gold hedging. His contribution to the company and the group is appreciated and will be missed. Kelvin's hedging responsibilities will be assumed by Mark Lynam, the AngloGold Ashanti treasurer, and his marketing activities by Thero Setiloane, who is presently also the chairman of Rand Refinery.
28 February 2006
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