UPDATE 2-Cliffs quarterly profit falls, but tops expectations

Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:17pm EDT
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* Adjusted earnings $0.60/share vs $0.85/share a year earlier

* Revenue slips 6 percent to $1.14 billion

* Talks with government on Black Thor chromite still on hold

April 24 (Reuters) - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc reported a drop in first-quarter profit on Wednesday but earnings were much better than analysts had expected, sending the iron ore and metallurgical coal miner's shares higher.

Revenue was just shy of expectations, dropping 6 percent to $1.14 billion. Analysts had been expecting $1.20 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Cliffs' hard-hit stock rose 5.7 percent to $19.25 in after-market trading.

As of Wednesday's close, its shares had plunged more than 70 percent over the previous 12 months, hurt by volatile iron ore prices that have weighed on Cliffs' earnings, and higher-than-expected costs at a key project, Bloom Lake iron ore in Quebec.

"We are headed in the right direction in 2013," said Chief Executive Joseph Carrabba in a statement. "During the first quarter, we took deliberate measures to reduce our balance sheet leverage and improve our cash position."

The Cleveland-based company raised $995 million in an equity offering announced in January, when it also slashed its dividend 76 percent.   Continued...