February 12, 2016 / 7:02 AM / 2 years ago

Australia's miners go for more gold as bullion prices brighten

SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Australia’s gold producers are set to report a round of higher half-year profits next week, but the results could pale against future gains as global economic woes light up bullion prices and miners dig more metal.

Gold output in the world’s second-biggest producer after China is set to rise sharply in the year to end-June 2016 from 275 tonnes a year earlier, as miners ramp up production to capture gold’s upward momentum.

Australia’s biggest gold miner Newcrest Mining, which will report in U.S. dollars for the first time, is tipped to show half-year EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) close to $600 million versus $520 million a year ago.

Evolution Mining is set to more than double last year’s first-half EBITDA of A$131 million and last month upped its production target to June 30 by as much as 40,000 ounces this year - worth $50 million at current bullion prices.

“Gold miners are making hay while the sun shines,” said Gavin Wendt, an analyst for MineLife. “More ounces mean more revenue.”

Gold has jumped nearly 17 percent so far this year, hitting a one-year high this week as investors seek safety, and is the best performing commodity in 2016. Some investors see gold rising as high as $1,400 an ounce.

In Australian dollars, gold is up nearly 20 percent year-to-date and is just 5 percent off its 2011 all-time high of A$1,839 an ounce.

“Real interest rates are effectively zero in Australia once you take into account the impact of inflation and that is a driver that sees people allocate money to precious metals,” said Jordan Eliseo, chief economist at ABC Bullion, which sells and stores precious metals for investors.

Glenn Dovaston, chief executive of small miner Millenium Mining, whose stock is up 125 percent this year, said the company was nearly debt free and planned to capitalise on the strong Australian dollar gold price.

“We have the funding to drive our exploration program hard to rapidly grow,” Dovaston said.

The S&P/ASX All Ordinaries Gold index index tracking Australian gold producers is up 30 percent this year after a decline in the two previous years. The wider S&P/ASX200 index has fallen 12 percent since Jan. 1.

Northern Star Resources, which is expected to show a more than three-fold rise in half-year EBITDA to around A$300 million, now sells its gold for A$100 an ounce more than it did in the last quarter.

The company plans to grow production to 700,000 ounces a year by fiscal 2018, from an upper limit 570,000 this year, Managing Director Bill Beament said. ($1 = 1.4055 Australian dollars)

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