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Like a perpetual game of monkey-in-the-middle, the midsized miners of gold are pegged with a term that even sounds like a passing phase: intermediate. With a voracious appetite for acquisitions and a knack for streamlining development, Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC ) has reached a scale of production and a wealth of reserves that warrant its graduation into the elite club of major producers.
At 527,000 ounces, Kinross Gold achieved nearly twice the production of Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) during the first quarter, but like Yamana, Kinross plans to continue ramping up production the rest of the year. Documenting a major growth spurt, Kinross reported that production rose 59% from the prior-year period. For the year, Kinross' guidance is for 2.4 million to 2.5 million ounces at a cost of $390 to $420 per ounce. Its production is still less than one-third that of titan Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) , but with more than 50 million ounces of gold and its hand on the acquisition button, Kinross will continue closing that gap.
Although gold prices were lower in the first quarter compared with last year, Kinross enjoyed a 61% increase in revenue, costs declined 11% to $419 per gold equivalent ounce (GEO), and operating earnings increased 72%. Net earnings, unfortunately, were up an unremarkable 8%, to $76.5 million.
Kinross appears to have a gap in the development pipeline. Beyond the Pacaratu expansion now nearing completion, the pipeline is principally in the feasibility stage, where projects like the Lobo Marte property -- acquired from Teck Resources (NYSE: TCK ) and Anglo American (NYSE: AAUK ) -- are vetted for their economic viability. Sitting on cash and equivalents of $746 million, and a shelf prospectus for a further $1 billion, Kinross should remain a key participant in the reawakening of consolidation in the precious metals sector.
A recent blog post by new blogger speedybure on Motley Fool CAPS led me to re-evaluate my classification of larger "mid-tier" miners Kinross and Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) . Admittedly, the "major" label means little, but the scale of production means everything. Although Goldcorp is still focused on robust organic growth, as these miners strive to be top producers, it's more likely that future growth will have to be obtained Kinross-style ... through acquisitions.
I still consider Kinross an excellent growth story, but suggest a measure of caution because some projects are located in potentially troublesome regions.