The Impala Platinum (Implats) interim financial results showed the consequences of low metal prices, unprofitable mines and troubles at its smelting complex, keeping the company in a loss-making position and unable to pay a dividend.

Implats, the world’s second-largest platinum producer, posted a total comprehensive loss of R866m for the six months to end-December, compared with an R886m loss for the matching period a year earlier. It had an attributable loss of R163m compared with a loss of R371m.

Revenue dipped to R17.3bn from R18.5bn. It recorded a pretax profit of R193m from a R238m loss the previous year.

Implats recorded a R250m "additional profits tax" from its Zimplats subsidiary in Zimbabwe, which contributed to the post-tax loss.

Unplanned maintenance of one of its furnaces, the number five furnace at Rustenburg, for four months led to a 75,000oz increase in pipeline stocks of platinum, which is unsold metal in the processing system.

Implats CEO Nico Muller said this problem had a "significant impact on the numbers" for the interim period. The value of the 75,000oz was estimated at about R2.45bn, which will flow into revenue as it is processed over the next 18 months

However, in February transformers at the same furnace caught fire, knocking the furnace out of action for 10 weeks and locking up 60,000oz of platinum that will not be processed before year end in June and "which will impact cash flow in this financial year". Propping up its financials were forward sales of 50,000oz of platinum and 30,000oz of palladium worth a total R1bn and which will be delivered in May and June 2018.

Implats has net debt of R3.8bn, up from R1bn a year earlier, with gross debt jumping by a quarter to R8bn and cash falling to R4bn from R5.2bn. Muller said Implats had more than enough cash and unutilised facilities of R4bn to complete its new 16 and 20 shafts and restructure its business.

Implats lowered its full-year production forecast by as much as 100,000oz, pegging its refined platinum output at 1.5-million ounces, with its own Rustenburg mines 50,000oz lower. Refined platinum sales for the period fell 11% to 648,800oz. In Zimbabwe, Implats owns 87% of Zimplats and is a partner in the Mimosa mine. The pressure on platinum mines to have 51% local ownership has eased.

The government is suggesting that instead of outright equity ownership, companies can focus on economic development, job creation, procurement and beneficiation to increase revenue.