AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE: AU, JSE: ANG ) stock dropped as much as 12% Friday after it cut production forecast and said a key mine in Ghana may not resume output this year after an accident in May.
The company lowered its output goal by about 12% after removing planned gold from the Obuasi operation. Mining activities at the project will remain suspended pending the conclusion of a third-party review of the mining and ground management plans.
While AngloGold hopes to restarts the mine by year-end, it would take a “cautious approach” to limit chances of a repeat of the incident that happened in May, interim Chief Executive Officer Christine Ramon said in an interview.
The shares fell by the most in nine months in Johannesburg on Friday, before paring some of the losses to trade 8.6% lower at 256.89 rand at 12:51 p.m. local time.
The Johannesburg-based producer has underperformed rivals in the past year after the accident at Obuasi, where it had been ramping up production following $545 million of investments. The company also spent nearly a year looking for a new CEO after announcing Kelvin Dushnisky’s departure after just two years.
“Obuasi was going to be quite a big contribution this year,” Ramon said on an earlier call. “We can’t predict at this stage if there will be production by the end of the year.”
AngloGold announced last month that former BHP Group executive Alberto Calderon will take the helm from Sept. 1, with Ramon returning to her post as chief financial officer. In addition to the troubles at Obuasi, the new boss will be faced with rising costs eating into the company’s profit margins — expenses surged 33% in the six months through June from a year earlier. There’s also an ongoing battle to repatriate profits from its Kibali mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo and tax repayments from the government of Tanzania.
While the company said it expects to see a solution soon to the profits locked up in Congo, Ramon declined to give exact timing when the government would release the funds.
AngloGold, which emerged from a mining empire created by Ernest Oppenheimer a century ago, sold its remaining South African operations last year to focus on more profitable mines elsewhere in Africa, Australia and the Americas.
The company reported net income declined 5.2% to $362 million in the six months through June because of the production setbacks at Obuasi. It declared an interim dividend — the first since 2013 — of 6 cents a share. The lower output doesn’t affect AngloGold’s ability to pay a full year dividend and the payout may improve with anticipated rise in output during the second half of the year, Ramon said.
AngloGold’s interim payout may “underwhelm versus market expectations” given its constrained free cash-flow, RMB Morgan Stanley analysts said. AngloGold raised payouts fivefold to 48 cents a share last year.