* Q4 adj EPS $2.61 vs est $2.19/shr
* Helped by higher copper prices, lower production costs
* Sees 2010 copper, gold production above 2009
March 16 (Reuters) - First Quantum Minerals Ltd (FM.TO) posted better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by higher copper prices and lower production costs, and said it sees increased production of copper and gold in 2010.
First Quantum expects to produce 385,000 tonnes of copper and 240,000 ounces of gold in 2010. That is up from its 2009 production of 373,940 tonnes of copper and 193,288 ounces of gold.
The Canadian copper and gold miner, which focuses on Africa, earned $227.2 million, or $2.67 a share in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $491.6 million, or $7.19 a share, in the year ago quarter.
Excluding items, the company earned $2.61 a share, beating analysts’ average estimate of $2.19 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net sales rose to $656.3 million, compared with $12.4 million last year. Analysts were looking for revenue of $577.1 million.
The average copper unit cash cost of production per pound was 97 cents, compared with $1.26 last year.
First Quantum operates four mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Mauritania.
Shares of the company closed at C$88.18 Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Isheeta Sanghi in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780; outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5800; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))