February 15, 2018 / 7:14 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Australian gold miner Newcrest expects output to grow as shakes off disruptions

* Underlying profit slid to $116 mln in 6 mths to Dec. 31

* That was down from $273 million the year before

* Expects gold production to pick up in current half (Recasts on CEO comment, adds analyst comment, changes date in dateline)

Feb 16 (Reuters) - Australia’s top gold miner, Newcrest Mining Ltd, expects output to grow in the coming months as its flagship site gradually ramps up after operations there were hit by an earthquake last year, its chief executive said on Friday.

That comes a day after the company reported a 58-percent slide in underlying profits to $116 million in the six months to Dec. 31 from the previous half-year, missing analyst forecasts.

“Production (is) expected to be stronger in the second-half of the financial year,” Chief Executive Sandeep Biswas told a media briefing.

“As a result, we are on track to deliver on our production, costs and capital guidance.”

The company has been gradually restarting output at its Cadia mine in southeastern Australia, which was closed by a minor earthquake last April.

Newcrest maintained its production estimate of 2.4 million to 2.7 million ounces of gold and 80,000 to 90,000 tonnes of copper in the year to June, 2018. It also announced an interim dividend of 7.5 cents per share, the same as last year.

Biswas added that the firm had funneled capital into a turnaround plan at its loss-making Telfer mine in the state of Western Australia, installing new management and exploring for new lodes underground.

He also said the miner was in regular talks with the Indonesian government regarding its contract of work (COW) for its Gosowong mine which runs out in 2029. Indonesia has been renegotiating with miners to obtain a higher equity stake in their operations.

“We’re sitting down in good faith with the government and we’ll talk it through ... if the case is, in the end, there has to be a selldown to a certain number, as long as it’s done at fair value then that’s something we’ll address at the time.”

Shares in Newcrest had dropped 3.4 percent to A$22.26 by 0103 GMT, and were the worst performer in a weaker mining sector on the Australian stock exchange.

The company’s $116 million profit in the last half was below a forecast of $143 million based on the average of three estimates in a poll of analysts. Operations were also hit by unplanned maintenance at Newcrest’s Papua New Guinea mine.

The firm said on Thursday that its cost of production on an “all-in sustaining basis” ticked up about 12 percent, reflecting the lower volume contribution from Cadia.

“This feels very much like an ‘on the right track’ result for us, with the numbers broadly as we anticipated and outlook commentary also reiterating our current understanding of future output and ongoing technical studies,” RBC said in a report. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath and Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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