(Adds reasons for higher profit, revenue changes to Veladero forecasts, background on Veladero suspension)
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp, the world’s largest producer of bullion, reported a bigger quarterly profit on Wednesday, reflecting higher gold prices and lower costs, while cutting its 2016 production costs and lifting its output.
Toronto-based Barrick, which has been selling off non-core assets and using cash flow to pay down debt, said profits were lifted by lower fuel and energy costs, smaller exploration and project spending, foreign exchange gains and the sale of higher-cost mines.
Debt has been reduced by $1.4 billion year-to-date and the company said it is on track to meet its 2016 reduction target of $2 billion. In three to five years, it wants to reduce its $8.5 billion debt to below $5 billion.
Barrick reported adjusted earnings of 24 cents per share in the three months to end-September compared with 11 cents per share in the same period last year. Analysts on average expected earnings of 20 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
With mines in the Americas, Australia and Africa, Barrick increased its 2016 production forecast to a range of 5.25 million to 5.55 million ounces of gold, from a previous target of 5.00-5.50 million.
Barrick also lowered its estimate of all-in sustaining costs to produce an ounce of gold to a range of $740 to $775 from a previous target of $750-$790. Capital spending for 2016 is also forecast lower, at $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion, down from $1.25-$1.4 billion in the second quarter.
Third-quarter gold production declined to 1.38 million ounces from 1.66 million ounces, while all-in sustaining costs improved to $704 an ounce from $771. Copper output fell to 100 million pounds from 140 million pounds.
Revenue dipped to $2.3 billion from $2.32 billion, while free cash flow fell to $674 million from $866 million.
Barrick cut its 2016 production forecast for its Veladero mine in Argentina to 530,000 to 580,000 ounces of gold, from 580,000 to 640,000 ounces, citing severe weather and a near three-week suspension.
All-in sustaining costs at the site were increased to $800 to $870 per ounce from $790 to $860.
Veladero operations were suspended in September after falling ice damaged a pipe and some crushed ore saturated with a process solution containing cyanide spilled over a barrier.
It was the second cyanide spill at the mine in just over a year. The suspension was lifted after Barrick completed measures, such as increasing the height of perimeter banks surrounding the leach pad. (Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and James Dalgleish)