UPDATE 2-African Barrick shares rise on higher output, improved grades
* First-quarter gold production rises 18 pct to 168,375 ounces
* Says on track to meet full-year production guidance
* Shares rise as much as 7 pct (Adds CEO comments, analyst average production estimate, updates shares)
By Karen Rebelo
April 24 (Reuters) - African Barrick Gold Plc reported a higher-than-expected 18 percent jump in first-quarter production, improved grades and a sharp cut in costs, pushing up the miner's shares as much as 7 percent on Thursday.
The operational improvements encouraged investors to look beyond the company's 21 percent drop in first-quarter earnings.
African Barrick, which mainly operates in Tanzania, said production rose to 168,375 ounces in the quarter ended March 31, keeping it on track to meet its production target of 650,000-690,000 ounces this year.
"At this stage it looks like we will comfortably be in our top half of that guidance range," Chief Executive Brad Gordon told Reuters.
"We will look at where we finish Q2 and decide whether we need to revise our production forecast upwards." Continued...