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(Recasts with forward-looking statements)
By Peter Frontini
SAO PAULO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA on Thursday said it maintained "positive" expectations for the price of iron ore and nickel in the long term, two of its key products, after reporting quarterly earnings that beat analyst expectations.
"Our outlook for iron ore remains positive, given the recovery of the global economy," Vale said after iron ore prices plunged in late November, hit by over-supply concerns and weaker steel demand. They have since recouped some of those losses.
The company, once the world's top producer of the steel ingredient, said its fourth-quarter net profit nearly doubled to $5.4 billion. The growth was mainly due to the impact of a reclassification of cumulative foreign exchange gains, the company said.
The financial gains were partially offset by higher expenses related to the Brumadinho dam disaster, such as an additional provision of $1.7 billion related to upstream dams.
Vale's earnings sustained an impact from last year's iron ore price drop, but nickel has been on the rise for the past few years and the miner is betting that demand for the metal used in electric vehicles will continue to grow.
"This growth will favour high nickel-content batteries chemistry due to its higher energy density," the miner said. "The North American supply chain is particularly dependent on this market dynamic."
The company also said it expects a "slight surplus" in copper supply in the short term.
Vale reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of $6.96 billion, down 24% from the same quarter of 2020 and also below the $7.10 billion reported in the previous quarter.
That reflects a lower realisation price for iron ore, its main product, the company said. In the quarter, Vale realised $106.8 per tonne of iron ore fines, down from the $126.7 reported in the third quarter.
In a separate filing also on Thursday, Vale announced the distribution of dividends to shareholders of 3.7018 reais per share, which would be equivalent to $3.5 billion, to be paid on March 16.
(Reporting by Peter Frontini, Marcelo Rochabrun and Roberto Samora; Editing by Leslie Adler, Christian Plumb and Kenneth Maxwell)