Shares of Eldorado Gold (NYSE:EGO) a leader in gold mining, plunged 56% in 2017, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Unfortunate news from Greece and Turkey, among other things, dampened investors' spirits about the company.
In contrast to its momentum in 2016, when analysts upgraded the stock six times, Eldorado Gold received 11 downgrades from analysts in 2017 -- which should hardly come as a surprise, in light of the challenges the company faced.
Bears made their presence known early in the year in response to the company's fourth-quarter and fiscal 2016 earnings report, which landed during the last week in February; shares dropped more than 12% the day after the report was released. The company reported a net loss of $344 million -- primarily due to a $351 million loss recorded on the sale of the its Chinese assets. Another source of concern was the company's operating cash flow, which fell from $223 million in fiscal 2015 to $114 million in fiscal 2016.
Investors found further cause for concern in June upon learning that Greece was interested in beginning arbitration proceedings to resolve differences with Eldorado Gold regarding the Skouries project. Located in northern Greece, the Skouries project is a high-grade gold-copper porphyry deposit which Eldorado estimates could have a mine life of 25 years, during which time it could produce 3.1 million ounces of gold and 1.47 billion pounds of copper.
Investors received further disheartening news from the other side of the Aegean Sea. In late October, management revised its fiscal 2017 guidance for the Kisladag mine in Turkey downward. Whereas the company had initially forecast (in January) gold production of 230,000 ounces to 250,000 ounces for Kisladag, the updated estimate was for 170,000 ounces to 180,000 ounces. Management also reported that cash costs were expected to land in the $500 per ounce to $550 per ounce rangge -- higher than range of $450 to $500 forecast in June.
The yellow brick road that Eldorado traveled in 2017 was far from smooth. In terms of 2018, however, investors have several things to monitor. For one, the arbitration period with the Greek government is expected to end in the first week of April. Should the results of the arbitration hinder development of the Skouries mine, it would be a blow to the company's growth prospects -- and likely be a harbinger of further dips in stock.
Moreover, investors should pay close attention to management's commentary on the Kisladag mine. Initially, management forecast average annual gold production of approximately 285,000 ounces for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It seems unlikely that it will be affirming this estimate anytime soon. Instead, it's more likely that management will cut the figure in light of the operational challenges facing the mine.