January 18, 2016 / 2:36 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Poland's KGHM CEO flags lower dividend due to asset impairment

(Adds quotes, Sierra Gorda mine, political background)

LUBIN, Poland, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Poland’s KGHM, Europe’s second-biggest copper producer may have to cut its 2015 dividend if it has to write down the value of its assets as a result of the copper rout, KGHM’s chief executive said on Monday.

Last month, KGHM said it would have to run an asset impairment test because of continued low commodity prices. Copper, used in power and construction, touched $4,318 on Friday, its lowest since May 2009, putting KGHM at a risk of generating losses.

“I think the test’s results will be known at the turn of January and February. Depending on the outcome, I cannot rule out that it could result in a proposal of a lower dividend from 2015,” KGHM CEO Herbert Wirth told Reuters.

KGHM’s strategy is to pay out up to one third of its annual standalone net profit as a dividend. Last year the state-controlled company paid out 800 million zlotys ($195.5 million) from net profit at 2.4 billion zlotys.

Chinese demand worries have weighed on the copper price, which in turn ate into KGHM’s profit. The rout also raised the treasury’s concerns about the value of KGHM’s largest foreign asset, the Sierra Gorda mine in Chile, which it co-owns with Japan’s Sumitomo.

KGHM gained control of Sierra Gorda in 2011 when it bought Canadian rival Quadra FNX for C$2.87 billion ($1.98 billion), the largest ever foreign acquisition by a Polish company.

KGHM’s CEO may lose his job in the coming weeks following a wide reshuffle of management of Poland’s state-run companies after the Law and Justice (PiS) party won parliamentary elections in October.

Local media reported earlier that Wirth could be replaced by Krzysztof Skora, who had been KGHM’s CEO in 2006, when PiS was previously in power. (Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski; Writing by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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