Freeport-McMoRan Raises Its Sights

Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX  ) doesn't just produce metals that shine. Lately, the copper, gold, and molybdenum miner has done a good job of polishing its financial results as well, just as rival Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) did in its operations review earlier this month.

For the quarter, the company produced net income of $897 million, or an even $2.00 a share, versus just $0.11 per share in last year's first quarter. Production of 960 million pounds of copper, 478,000 ounces of gold, and 17 million pounds of molybdenum was mixed compared with last year's numbers, with molybdenum levels rising sharply but the other metals dropping slightly.

The improved financial performance for the quarter was largely attributable to improved metals prices compared with a year ago. For instance, the realized price for copper was $3.42 per pound, nearly double the year-ago level. The gold realization price was $1,110 per ounce, compared with $960 last year, and molybdenum brought in $15.09 per pound, more than 30% higher year on year.

Around the world
As a reminder, Freeport operates six open-pit copper mines in North America, has majority interests in four mines in South America, and has a stake of more than 90% in the world's largest copper and gold mine in its Grasberg operations in Papua, Indonesia. Also, in Africa, the company is still in the early stages of production at its 57.75%-owned Tenke Fungurume operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Management is optimistic about the cost structure of this new facility once it reaches full production.

As has been the case in the past couple of quarters, CEO Richard Adkerson was especially high on the copper demand in China: "The markets continue to be good. The copper market is strongly supported by China, with the strength of its fundamental economy." And with regard to Morenci, Freeport's "flagship mine in North America," he observed, "Now that we are seeing a more positive marketplace, we have taken steps to ramp up some of the curtailed production that we have."

So the trend is definitely positive at Freeport-McMoRan. I'm also expecting similarly positive announcements from Southern Copper, Vale, and Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM  ) when they announce their results. With Newmont and others starting to turn higher prices into improved cash flow, the future looks bright for the entire industry.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in the article above. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2010, at 8:01 PM, ValueMeal wrote:

    Fully agree. Cramer thinks that they have had their run and it is time to bail out. Nonsense. With interests all over the world, and commodities (namely copper) that everyone, everywhere will always need, not want but need, I think that this is a winner both short term and long.

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