July 30, 2013 / 7:19 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-African Barrick eyes more cost cuts as impairment hits H1

* H1 net loss of $701.2 mln vs $73.7 mln in last year period

* Hit by $727 mln charge after gold price plunge, review of mines

* Says cost review identifies $185 mln of savings

* Shares down 2.9 pct

By Clara Ferreira-Marques and Sarah Young

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Miner African Barrick Gold , battling a plunge in the price of bullion, identified more cost cuts to help engineer a turnaround after sinking to a first-half loss on the back of a $727 million impairment charge.

African Barrick was under pressure even before a gold price rout began in April, hit by illegal mining, power generation problems and strikes, issues which forced it to warn in February that output would shrink for a fifth straight year.

The company on Tuesday posted a first half net loss of $701.2 million, against a profit for the year-ago period of $73.7 million, after a lower gold price and a review of its lower grade mines forced it to take the $727 million charge.

On a quarterly-basis, however, it beat consensus on a production and cost basis, helped by actions taken as part of a review.

The review identified $185 million of potential savings, with over $100 million of cuts seen in 2013. Initially prompted by a failed takeover attempt earlier this year, the process was given fresh impetus by a fall in the price of gold.

“Our track record hasn’t been good. We’ve been thrown around a bit the last couple of years,” conceded chief executive Greg Hawkins in a telephone interview, adding that the second quarter results showed a turnaround was underway.

“We’ve got very, very detailed plans that are actionable. In order to put these numbers out there, there’s a fair amount of confidence in the numbers.”

The price of gold has fallen 22 percent, or nearly $400 an ounce so far this year, prompting many producers to shelve projects, reduce overheads and put non-core assets on the block.

Many gold miners have announced billions in writedowns in recent weeks, with African Barrick - a unit of gold mining giant Barrick Gold - following on from larger peers such as Newmont, Goldcorp and Australia’s Newcrest . All of them have either taken charges or warned a hit is expected after bullion prices tumbled.

African Barrick produced 165,733 ounces of gold in the three months to June 30, higher than the 140,000 ounces analysts expected on average, at a cash cost of $879 per ounce sold, beating a consensus forecast of $960.

African Barrick’s first-half all-in sustaining cost, however, a more widely used measure which includes additional elements such as exploration, stood at $1,507 per ounce in the six months - well above a current gold price of around $1,325.

“We think we’re on a good trajectory to get ourselves below the gold price and create a business that can make money and is profitable and sustainable at this sort of gold price,” Hawkins said.

Shares in African Barrick, which have lost two-thirds of their value in the last six months, rose as much as 4.8 percent in early trading, a rare positive reaction to its results. They later reversed to trade down 2.9 percent at 0943 GMT.

“If African Barrick is able to push these changes through it should help convince investors of its sustainability under lower gold prices,” Nomura analysts said.

The company’s overhaul involves it reducing the life of operations like its low-grade Buzwagi mine, as well as reducing maintenance, transport and security costs.

Security at the African Barrick’s mines is in focus after news earlier on Tuesday that the company was being sued by a group of Tanzanians who say the company was complicit in the killing by police of villagers in incidents in 2011.

“African Barrick believes that these proceedings are without merit, and intends to vigorously defend its interests,” the company said in a separate statement.

African Barrick stuck to its full-year cost and production targets - a 2013 cash cost of $925 to $975 per ounce, above current levels for the six months, and output of 540,000 to 600,000 ounces for the year.

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