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Commodity prices are crashing right now, and the slump could be about to claim another victim.
Vale, the Brazilian mining company, is having an absolutely crazy year, and its third quarter results are a testament to that.
It’s the world’s largest single producer of iron ore, and just reported a massive loss of $2.12 billion (£1.37 billion) for Q3. That’s a pretty big fall.
It’s even bigger when you know that in Q2, it made a profit of $1.68 billion (£1.09 billion). That’s a quarter-to-quarter change of nearly $4 billion (£2.6 billion).
In Q1 this year, Vale took a hit of $3.12 billion (£2.02 billion). Add the three most recent quarters together and the company’s earnings this year resemble something of a rollercoaster.
As well as struggling with a huge overall loss, Vale’s revenues plunged in Q3, dropping by $467 million (£302 million) to $6.6 billion (£4.27 billion).
Vale’s terrible performance overall this year has been driven largely by the huge crash in commodity prices and the worries about whether China’s economic growth can remain strong in the long run. The commodity crash has been well publicised and the troubles of firms like Glencore have been headline news in recent months.
But Vale is also contending with a problem that many commodity companies don’t have to. Brazil’s economy is doing absolutely terribly right now, and that means Vale is having to cope with the huge depreciation that Brazil’s real is facing against the rest of the world’s major currencies. Things are particularly bad against the dollar. Brazil’s currency has fallen 37% against it in the past year.
In a statement today, Vale was quick to blame the real for its poor performance, saying “The US$ 3.792 billion decrease in income was mostly driven by the effect on financial results of the depreciation of the Brazilian real against the dollar of 28% in 3Q15 vs. the appreciation of the Brazilian real against the dollar of 3% in 2Q15.”
Brazil’s credit is now rated as junk, and consumer confidence, wages, and employment are all suffering. As a Brazilian company, Vale has far greater exposure to the market than most of the largest commodity firms, which are headquartered in Europe and Australia.
The announcement of Vale’s $4 billion slump in Q3 comes just three days after it announced that it had produced record amounts of iron ore in the previous months, helping to contribute to the global oversupply that has seen prices crash from around $200 (£129) per tonne in 2011, to just over $50 (£32) right now.
After Thursday’s results, it looks like Vale’s great Q2 was just an anomaly in what is an otherwise horrible year for the miner.