* Shareholders forced change of board in June
* Share price falls 2.4 pct
* Peter Hambro says results vindicate his strategy
LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Shares in Russian-focused gold miner Petropavlovsk fell on Tuesday after the company reported a rise in first-half profit as analysts said it was too soon to tell what difference changes at the top would make.
Petropavlovsk returned to profit in 2016 after restructuring to tackle its debts, but faced further turmoil this year as rebel shareholders ousted founder Peter Hambro in June and voted in new board members, citing corporate governance failures.
Petropavlovsk reported a 30 percent increase in first-half earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) on Tuesday, and said it continued to work on strengthening its capital structure.
Hambro, who is still a shareholder, said the results were proof he had been taking Petropavlovsk in the right direction.
“The H1 results vindicate the vision that our board had for the company,” Hambro said in an email.
Analysts said it was too soon to judge the impact of the new management, and Petropavlovsk’s share price, which has risen less than 1 percent since the start of the year, closed down 2.4 percent in London. The broader sector rose 0.3 percent.
Gold miners have been boosted by a firmer gold price, which has risen above $1,350 this month to its highest in around a year, driven by a weaker dollar and rising geopolitical risk.
Apart from an increase in underlying EBITDA to $114 million, from $88 in the first half of 2016, Petropavlovsk said its net cash had more than doubled and its net debt had fallen 5 percent.
“We continue to look for ways to de-risk our development plans, including focusing on securing free cash from the operating business and improving the company’s capital structure,” Ian Ashby, the new non-executive chairman, said.
Petropavlovsk reiterated full-year output guidance of between 420,000 and 460,000 ounces.
“The company is on its way to its production target, thus financial results are improving,” Oleg Petropavlovskiy, a Moscow-based analyst at BCS investment bank, said. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis in London and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Susan Fenton)