Rio Tinto's net profit soared to more than $14 billion in 2010 amid strong demand in Asia for coal and iron ore, prompting the mining giant to launch a massive stock buyback to return cash to shareholders.
The Anglo-Australian miner announced its financial results for the 12 months to Dec. 31 on Thursday, and said it was entering a "significant growth phase" that would include small- and medium-sized acquisitions.
The company said in a statement that net earnings for the 12 months were $14.3 billion, an increase on the previous year of almost 200 percent.
It announced a plan to buy back $5 billion of its shares by the end of 2012.
"Rio Tinto is reinvigorated, running strongly and benefiting from favorable markets," CEO Tom Albanese said. "GDP growth in emerging markets and supply constraints mean the general market and pricing outlook for commodities remain positive, albeit with elevated risk."
The increased risks included potential swings in commodity prices as government stimulus packages introduced to counter the effect of the global financial crisis wind down.
The results were helped by robust demand for thermal coal in South Korea, India, Taiwan and China, strong demand for semi-soft coking coal as a result of rising demand for steel, and higher prices for iron ore.
Prices were higher for nearly all of the company's commodities, including copper, molybdenum, gold and aluminum.
Rio Tinto said cash generated by the business was 70 percent higher than the previous year at $23.5 billion, and the company had reduced its net debt to $4.3 billion at Dec. 31, from $19 billion a year earlier.
The company will pay a year-end dividend of $0.63 per share.
The announcement was made after the Australian stock exchange closed. Rio's share price had closed marginally higher at Australian dollars $88.68 ($89.23).
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