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Is Glencore plc a ‘buy’ after today’s update?

Glencore (LSE: GLEN) is marginally down today after announcing a change to its full-year production guidance. It now expects to produce 1410kt (thousand tonnes) of copper, which is a rise of 20kt from previous guidance. This is in tandem with a rise in guidance for coal production of 5mt (million tonnes) to 125mt, although oil production is now expected to be 200kbbl (thousand barrels of oil) lower than previous forecasts as Glencore suffers from reduced workover activity in Chad, and lower oil prices.

Of course, Glencore’s strategy of reducing production across a range of commodities continued in the first half of the year. Copper, zinc, oil and coal production declined as Glencore sought to rebuild its financial standing following a period of intense uncertainty regarding its financial viability. The company’s balance sheet came under scrutiny last year as commodity price falls caused its balance sheet gearing levels to appear unsustainable.

Since then, it has embarked on a so far successful strategy to turn its business around. It has made asset sales, raised funds, cut back on dividends and sought to make significant cost savings and efficiencies across the business. Investors seem to have bought into the strategy and Glencore’s execution of it, since it has risen in value by 41% in the last three months.

Bright future?

Looking ahead, there’s scope for further upbeat performance from the diversified mining company. Its pre-tax profit is expected to return after a £6.2bn loss last year, with £923m being pencilled-in by the market in the current year. Following this, Glencore is expected to increase its pre-tax profit to as much as £1.5bn in 2017 and this has the potential to boost investor sentiment over the medium term.

Clearly, Glencore’s outlook is closely linked to the price of commodities. The fact that it’s a well-diversified miner, however, reduces its overall risk profile and means that it’s not wholly dependent on one commodity price for its sales and profitability.

However, on the flip side the likes of coal, oil and copper have been hit by a global demand/supply imbalance that’s currently not showing obvious signs of changing in the short run. But with commodity prices likely to rise in the long run as production falls across the industry and demand grows, due in part to rising demand from emerging economies, Glencore’s long-term future appears to be bright.

There are still question marks regarding its financial stability. But its strategy is sound and it’s making strong progress that looks set to continue over the course of the next few years. While risky and likely to be highly volatile, as evidenced by Glencore’s beta of 2.4, its share price performance may continue to improve if external and internal factors continue to move in the right direction. And with it having a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 0.5, it offers a wide margin of safety and a very enticing valuation.

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Peter Stephens has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.