Indonesia Isn't the Problem for Newmont Mining Corp

Newmont Mining's recent update to its dividend policy should make it clear that the price of gold is more important to the company than any export issues in Indonesia.

Mar 3, 2014 at 9:01AM

While the export tax issue in Indonesia gets all the press, the real reason Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) continues to hit new 52-week lows is related to gold prices. Though facing the same issue in Indonesia, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) has seen some bounce-back with a bigger focus on copper and oil.

Both miners export a considerable amount of material from Indonesia and have so far failed to obtain export licenses or waivers on the new export tax. Back in January, the Indonesian government entered an order for punitive taxes for miners that don't process materials in the country. While Freeport-McMoRan has publicly discussed plans of potentially building a smelter, Newmont hasn't done the same.

While Freeport-McMoRan gained more attention for filing the potential to declare a force majeure on concentrate sales due to regulatory changes in Indonesia, Newmont is focused elsewhere. It recently changed its capital allocation plan to more directly tie dividend payments to the price of gold. Otherwise, Newmont isn't worried about the situation in Indonesia, but it is clear the price of gold is driving the future of the company.

Gold prices
While political issues never help, in reality Newmont obtains 90% of its revenue from gold. The price of the commodity is more important to the stock than any particular region. If anything, the lack of gold exports from Indonesia could help push up the price of gold obtained in sales from other regions.

Newmont recently changed the dividend policy to link the payout to the price of gold in order to preserve financial flexibility. The move is interesting considering it aligns the dividend level with the anticipated level of cash flow, yet the typical dividend investor wants the steady payouts. The policy drops the dividend from an annual rate of $0.60 to only $0.10 based on the current price of gold below $1,300 per ounce. Gold prices must once again surpass $1,500 per ounce to restore the previous dividend level.

Freeport-McMoRan offers better protection against price swings in only one commodity with the new focus on oil and natural gas production. The company, though, obtains more than 60% of revenue and the vast majority of profits from copper.

Indonesian impact
In reality, Newmont obtains 70% of its production in stable counties like Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. In addition, the company only obtains 7% of revenue from Indonesia; a certain portion of production is exempt from the new export duties with the utilization of the Gresik smelter to refine some material within the country.

Likewise, Freeport-McMoRan produces more copper in North America and South America than in Indonesia despite having the largest copper mine within that country. In addition, the miner already processes roughly 40% of the copper production in the country at a Mitsubishi joint-venture smelter. The biggest impact is the plan to ramp up gold production to 1.6 million ounces in 2014 compared to only producing 1.1 million ounces in 2013.

Bottom line
While Indonesia grabs the headlines for Newmont Mining, the real attention should be placed on the price of gold and expectations for the future of the commodity. The dividend policy is now tied directly to gold's price instead of any government moves within Indonesia considering the minimal revenue base affected by the newly exposed export taxes. Likewise, investors should buy Freeport-McMoRan more based on the prospects of copper and not export laws in Indonesia.

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Mark Holder has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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