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Gold Fields eyes 2Moz as Ghana builds

Gold Fields upped its attributable gold production in the March quarter, mostly due to improved output at its Ghana operations.
Gold Fields eyes 2Moz as Ghana builds Gold Fields eyes 2Moz as Ghana builds Gold Fields eyes 2Moz as Ghana builds Gold Fields eyes 2Moz as Ghana builds Gold Fields eyes 2Moz as Ghana builds

Gold Fields' South Deep operation in South Africa did better than expected in the March quarter

Gold Fields produced 542,000 ounces, rising 10.6% on the year, at an all-in sustaining cost (AISC) of US$963 per ounce, up from $955/oz a year ago.

The gold was recovered from 8.9 million tonnes of tonnes milled, 6.1% higher on the year, with a yield of 2g/t, up from 1.9g/t a year ago.

RBC analyst James Bell said the March quarter had been strong across the board for Gold Fields, with production 11% above the bank's forecasts and AISC below the low-end of annual guidance.

He said benefits of the Damang reinvestment had started to materialise, which was "particularly pleasing as it is the first sign of things to come from Ghana", with the positive momentum expected to build throughout the year.

The company's embattled South Deep operation in South Africa also did better than expected, with its 34,000oz production above the 28,000oz forecast by RBC, despite having to restart after a strike hit production in the December quarter and electricity load shedding in the country.

Gold Fields kept its full-year attributable gold production guidance at 2.13-2.18 million ounces, up 4-7% year-on-year, at an AISC of $980-995/oz.

Bell said RBC believed the upper end of the range may be achievable.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said 2019 would be "one of two halves", with both production and cash-flow being weighted to the second half of the year.

The company also reported revenue of $1,298/oz, down from $1,316/oz a year ago, with 526,100oz of gold sold during the quarter, up 2.9% year-on-year.

Cost of sales before costs were at $41 per tonne for the March quarter, down $2 year-on-year.

The company ended the quarter with net debt of $1.6 billion, just 0.1% lower than the end of December, despite project capital still being spent and it paying out the FY18 dividend. Net debt was, however, 17.5% higher than at the end of March 2018.

Holland said Gold Fields had been focused on reinvesting into the business for the past two years, spending more than $500 million primarily on Damang and Gruyere, with 2019 expected to be the inflection point as it decreased project capital and these new projects started contributing.

"The 2Moz milestone is expected to be reached for the first time in 2019 as Damang increases production; Gruyere is set to come into production and our Asanko joint venture in Ghana contributes for the full year," he said.

"The longer-term future of this portfolio also looks positive as we continue to invest in near-mine exploration at our Australian mines, while the board has approved a maiden mineral reserve and the technical components of the feasibility study for the high-grade, low-cost Salares Norte project in Chile.

"We will continue to advance this project to a build decision in mid-2020 with the approval of the environmental impact assessment being a key variable," he said.

Gold Fields' (JSE:GFI) shares rose 4.35% Thursday after the results to R54.72 (US$3.78) per share, also up from R41.06/share six months ago.