Mining giant Glencore Xstrata plunged deep into the red on Tuesday but defended its long-delayed merger three months ago, saying that cost-savings would be higher than expected. During the first half of the year, the new company posted a net loss of $8.9 billion (6.6 billion euros), owing to merger write-downs. The group\'s shares have fallen by about 11.0 percent since the merger. Despite the dramatic switch from the $2.2 net profit the business made a year earlier, on a comparable asset base, it said it expected to pay an interim dividend and said merger benefits would be bigger than expected. \"We continue to work tirelessly and diligently to maximise returns on our capital and to our shareholders,\" Glencore Xstrata chief Ivan Glasenberg said in the earnings statement, describing the first half of 2013 as \"a transformational period\" for the company. Publishing its first results since the merger, the new group took a charge of $7.6 billion to write down goodwill, meaning intangible assets which have a lower book value than the value at which they changed hands. The group, based in Baar in northern Switzerland, also re-evalued Glencore\'s 34-percent holding in Xstrata before the merger, adding another $1.1-billion charge to its balance sheet, bringing its total write-down to $7.7 billion. It also saw nearly $800 million evaporate from value of its activities in the Australian Murrin Murrin nickel mine and its share in Russian aluminium giant UC Rusal. The company meanwhile said the write-downs reflected the poor outlook for the mining industry and increased risks for big expansion projects and for the development of new sites. Glencore Xstrata also saw its gross operating profit shrink 9.0 percent to $6.0 billion, as commodities prices tanked during the first half of the year, with metals prices falling a full 15 percent. But the company\'s sales before interest and taxes nonetheless rose on a comparable basis by 4.0 percent to $112 billion, it said. However, on a pro-forma basis, presented as though the merger had taken place a year earlier and not including the restructuring costs, sales fell by 2.0 percent to $121 billion. Glasenberg, who previously headed Glencore, remained sanguine about the group\'s performance. \"We completed the merger with Xstrata and have made excellent progress integrating the businesses,\" he insisted, underlining that the benefits and economies of the merger would be much greater than the initial forecast of $500 million per year. \"As we look ahead, we remain focused on the disciplined allocation of capital as well as robustly scrutinising all pre-existing capital plans of the enlarged entity,\" he added. The group said that it expected to pay an interim dividend of $0.054 per share. It said that this was a sign of its confidence in its prospects and in the strength and flexibility of its balance sheet. Analyst Mike McCudden at online brokerage Interactive Investor was not convinced. \"The huge write-down of Xstrata\'s assets amidst a tough market, while they seek some stability in the board, is doing nothing to instill any confidence from investors,\" he told AFP. \"Glencore still has a lot of work to do in integrating Xstrata, and after a run of disappointments recently, today\'s attempts to reassure investors will do little to stop them heading for the exits,\" he added. Ute Haibach, an analyst with J. Safra Sarasin, meanwhile said that while observers had expected to see write-downs, the ones announced on Tuesday \"look high at the first glance.\" Glencore Xstrata is listed on the London Stock Exchange, where its shares were down 2.77 percent in midday trading at 293.60 pence, having opened at 297.00 pence. The group\'s stock had closed at 301.95 pence on Monday. The share began life at about 331.15 pence on May 3, and has since fallen by about 11.3 percent. The long-awaited merger between Swiss commodities trader Glencore and mining giant Xstrata, which is also based in the Alpine country, came on May 2. The new group took the stage alongside leading global commodities companies such as BHP Billiton, Vale and Rio Tinto. Glencore and Xstrata\'s shareholders had voted in favour of the merger last November, with a view to sealing the deal by the end of 2012. That target was pushed back to March, before again being shifted due to delays in approval by Chinese regulators. China finally gave a green light in April on condition that once the merger was completed, the combined group would sell its interest in the Las Bambas copper mine project in Peru to Chinese-approved players.