* Company not finished with M&A
* Focus on organic growth
* Stock down slightly
Feb 16 (Reuters) - Cliffs Natural Resources, which bought Canadian miner Consolidated Thompson for about $4 billion last year, may still be in the market for more acquisitions, its chief executive said on Thursday.
But Joseph Carrabba said the company is mostly focused on growing from within by spending a big portion of its $1 billion capital expenditure budget this year on exploration and developing existing mine projects.
“On the exploration, we’re definitely spending more,” Carrabba told Wall Street analysts on a conference call.
“We have spent a lot of time and effort and money ... to grow the company through M&A. We’re not completely finished with M&A if the right opportunity comes up, but we are turning more into a project execution phase,” he said.
In addition to the Canadian mines Cliffs acquired from Consolidated Thompson, the company is actively looking to expand on its Australian assets.
“We have a lot of claims and land out there with potential additional other minerals,” he said. “Yes, we paid the price on the M&A, and now we’re executing the organic piece of the exploration.”
Chief Financial Officer Laurie Brlas (cq) said Cliffs expects to generate cash flow of about $1.9 billion this year and might consider boosting its dividend to shareholders.
“We will still continue to look at growth, but ... it will probably be more likely focused on organic growth in the near term.
“And then we’ll continue to look at the dividend, as I said, we doubled the dividend in the last year and I think our board will continue to look at that as a means to return cash to our shareholders,” she said.
Cliffs’ shares slipped 31 cents to $68.37 shortly after midday on the New York Stock Exchange, a day after it reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street expectations.