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Portman set to boost capacity

PORTMAN Limited is on track to boost the capacity of its Koolyanobbing Iron ore project in WA to 3.5 million tonnes per annum in 2001 after completing key infrastructure changes and posting a 65 per cent increase in iron ore sales during the six months to June 30.

According to Portman chairman George Jones, the sales performance reflected strong market conditions and the introduction of a number of new customers providing further impetus for the Perth-based group’s iron ore growth strategy, which aims to lift output to 8 million tonnes per annum over the next five years.

This latest milestone in iron ore production came as Portman posted a $1.016 million pre-tax profit and $667,000 net profit after tax for the half year period.

The result was struck on sales revenue of $15.428 million.

Mr Jones said the result is a creditable performance in a period of growth and development.

It covers the first full fiscal period since the sale of Portman’s interest in the Burton coal project and is also the first under its new banner of Portman Limited.

“We are pleased to be able to report an operating profit despite the significant investment which Portman is currently making in business and project development — most importantly in iron ore, but also at the Lithgow silicon project and the recently established Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) forestry business,” Mr Jones said.

“The repositioning of Portman as a more broadly based diversified investment group in the bulk commodities and strategic minerals sectors comes at a time when demand for these products is running very strongly with continuing global economic growth.

“This should establish a very profitable growth path for the company over the next few years — one that will see us pursue opportunities with the potential to enhance the value of Portman and provide real returns for shareholders,” he added.

“We are certainly looking forward to an even better second half of 2000 with a strong profit result projected for 2001 as the iron ore expansion gathers pace.”

During the first half, the company passed a number of significant milestones in its iron ore growth strategy, including the opening of a new storage facility at Esperance, the acquisition of 50 new ore wagons, and the signing of an agreement to assume 100 per cent ownership of the Koolyanobbing project.

Portman managing director Geoff Wedlock said a dredging program to enable the full loading of Panamax vessels at Esperance would commence once environmental approvals are granted.

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