BUSINESS
02/16/2012 07:57 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Barrick Gold adjusted profits rise on gold prices in Q4, miss expectations

TORONTO - Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) says its adjusted net earnings grew 15 per cent in the fourth quarter on higher gold prices and copper sales, but the results from the world's largest gold producer still missed analyst expectations.

The Toronto-based company, which reports in U.S. dollars, posted adjusted profits of US$1.17 billion, filtering out various after-tax charges.

On a per share basis, the results were equal to $1.17 per share, well short of analyst predictions of $1.27 per share, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters. A year earlier, the company posted adjusted earnings of $1.02 billion, or $1.02 per share.

Net income slipped to $959 million, or 96 cents per share, from $961 million a year ago, also equal to 96 cents per share.

Barrick said the results were impacted by after-tax writedowns of US$153 million tied to redundant power assets and its investment portfolio.

Revenues increased to $3.79 billion from $3.01 billion.

Quarterly gold production was 1.81 million ounces with cash costs of $505 per ounce.

Barrick said it expects full-year gold production to be in the range of 7.3 million to 7.8 million ounces at a total cash cost of between $520 and $560 per ounce for 2012.

In 2011, Barrick produced just under 7.7 million ounces of gold at a cash cost of $460 per ounce, chief executive Aaron Regent told analysts during a conference call.

"I think that compares very favourably with the other senior gold producers and positions us around the bottom third of the cost curve," Regent said.

Regent noted that Barrick increased its dividend last year by 25 per cent and "this is a trend that we anticipate will continue."

Barrick is developing several large projects, including Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, Pascua-Lama on the border between Chile and Argentina and Cerro Casale in Chile.

The Dominican Republic mine will begin producing by the middle of this year and the Pascua-Lama mine by the middle of 2013, Regent said.

"These mines will produce a combined, or contribute, 1.5 million low-cost ounces to the company."

Regent also noted the company has a number of other projects that it's developing.

"This is a robust pipeline with provides us with a lot of investment choices for the future."

Regent said Barrick's North American properties produced 761,000 ounces of gold at cash cost $498 per ounce with a strong performance from its Goldstrike and Cortez mines in Nevada.

He said the Cortez mine produced 283,000 ounces in the quarter at a cash of $331 per ounce and for the full year it produced 1.42 million ounces at a cash cost $245 per ounce.

"I think this really positions Cortez as one of the most profitable gold mines in the world."

Earlier this week, it was announced that Barrick was seeking to sell its 20.4 per cent stake in Russian gold miner Highland Gold.

The company, which has three operating mines, one development project and five exploration properties, said Barrick and Highland's largest shareholder, Primerod International Ltd., have agreed to work together on the sale.

Primerod is controlled by Millhouse Capital, the investment firm run by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who also owns the Chelsea Football Club.

The company is also working to develop the Donlin Gold project in Alaska, which it holds jointly with NovaGold Resources (TSX:NG).

Barrick owns and operates gold mines in Canada, Peru, and Australia and has major projects in the Dominican Republic, Nevada and on the Argentina-Chile border.