BUSINESS
02/16/2012 12:19 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Agnico-Eagle shares up as gold miner increases dividend by 25 per cent

Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. chief executive Sean Boyd is putting a difficult 2011 behind him and moving ahead with plans to increase production at four of the company's five mines this year.

"What we've got is guidance growth that is very solid and achievable," Sean Boyd said Thursday.

Shares in the gold miner were up more than seven per cent Thursday after the company increased its dividend even as it reported a loss in its latest quarter due to a writedown of its Meadowbank mine in Nunavut, where it has faced persistently high costs.

The stock closed up $2.45 at $36.57 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Last year was a challenging period for Agnico-Eagle, which was forced to shut down its Goldex mine in Val D'Or, Que., due to unstable rock formations and flooding.

In its outlook, Agnico-Eagle lowered its production forecast from a year ago due to suspend operations at Goldex.

"It's disappointing, but here we are with some good people, good assets, good exploration stories and large deposits that continue to grow," Boyd said.

The company said late Wednesday that it expected gold production for 2012 to be in the range of 875,000 ounces to 950,000 ounces with total cash costs per ounce between $690 and $750.

Production is expected to grow to between 990,000 ounces in 2013 and 1.055 million in 2014 with similar costs to those for 2012.

Agnico-Eagle reported a fourth-quarter loss of $601.4 million or $3.53 per share. That compared with a profit of $88 million, or 53 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenue in the quarter totalled $455.5 million, up from $439 million.

Included in the quarter was a $644.9-million charge related to Meadowbank, where the company has reworked its plan for the project and now expects a shorter mine life.

Excluding one-time items, Agnico-Eagle said it would have earned $76.2 million or 45 cents per share for the fourth quarter of 2011.

For the full year, the company reported a loss of $568.9 million of $3.36 diluted per share on $1.82 billion in revenue. That compared with a profit of $332.1 million or $2 per diluted share on $1.42 billion in revenue in 2010.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Stephen Walker rated Agnico-Eagle a "sector perform" with average risk.

"Management is taking a very cautious approach, as it forecasts gold production for 2012, 2013 and 2014," Walker noted in a report to clients.

Agnico-Eagle recently completed its takeover of Grayd Resource Corp.

The acquisition beefed up Agnico-Eagle's existing operations in Mexico, a country in which it already has operations.

The company also announced late Wednesday that chief operating officer Eberhard Scherkus and Paul-Henri Girard, vice-president for Canada, would be leaving the firm.

Agnico-Eagle has mining operations, exploration and development projects in Canada, Finland, Mexico and the United States. The company's LaRonde mine is Canada's largest operating gold project in terms of reserves.