Eureka! Newmont Hits It Big

I've writtenseveraltimes about changes at Newmont Gold (NYSE: NEM  ) since Dick O'Brien took the reins as CEO, but yesterday marked the first quarterly report out of the new Newmont. While Newmont may lack the pizzazz of a growth-oriented mid-tier company like Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM  ) or Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY  ) , it still brought the thunder yesterday, and shares hurtled roughly 10% higher.

Though they look meager compared to today's near-$800 spot price, gold price realizations were 11% higher for the quarter. Equity gold sales (precious-metal parlance for sales volume) were off a bit, and cash costs lifted 22%. Despite the disappointment at Phoenix and the Midas mine moratorium, quarterly cash flow soared nearly 160%. Net income, which included some very large non-operating gains, doubled. Not to nitpick or anything, but this is a 100% increase, not a 200% increase, as stated in the press release.

Semantics aside, I am impressed with O'Brien's quick overhaul of this company. I've already discussed the strategic disposal of gold price hedges, the planned monetization of non-core assets, and the new approach to exploration and development, as exemplified by Newmont's friendly bid for Miramar Mining (AMEX: MNG  ) . One interesting new element of the company shake-up has to do with managing Newmont's actual gold operations.

With the intense investor focus on annual production, running at full tilt in the fourth quarter is an all-too-common practice. In O'Brien's words, this creates an "incentive to make this year look good by stealing from next year." To ease out of this back-weighted trend, Newmont's various mine operators will be asked to implement three-year plans, which should smooth out the production profile.

Newmont is scrapping a lot of silly practices. For now, it's holding an oil sands investment, which might seem completely non-core, but cash distributions from that company actually act as a hedge on fuel costs. There's a lot of equity tied up here, and I would expect Newmont to free up that cash sometime in the not-too-distant future.

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