After years of treating aggressive acquisitions and no-holds-barred volume growth as the company's dominant priorities, the embattled gold miner is developing a vastly different guiding ethos under newly instated CEO J. Paul Rollinson. With increasing emphasis upon disciplined cost reduction and cash flow generation, the company has outlined a program called "The Kinross Way Forward" to unlock "greater value at both our mines and projects." In unveiling the program, Rollinson speaks the magic words that investors have been waiting to hear from Kinross for years: "Our focus will be on quality, and not just quantity."
Words are fine and dandy, but Kinross is already backing up the encouraging rhetoric with tangible improvements on multiple fronts. The out-of-control escalation of mine development and construction costs that dealt Kinross shareholders such mortal wounds in recent years has already begun to reverse course under the company's new leadership. In its third-quarter-earnings report, Kinross revealed a $200 million reduction in estimated capex for 2012, from $2.2 billion to $2 billion. Those reductions correspond primarily to development capital, but include greater efficiencies with respect to sustaining capital as well.
Per-ounce costs are also on the mend, with a production costs of $677 per gold-equivalent ounce (GEO) representing a substantial 7% sequential improvement over the $725 cost recorded during former CEO Tye Burt's final quarter with the company. Kinross' adjusted earnings of $250.4 million -- or $0.22 per share -- exceeded analysts' expectations, and lifted the stock to within spitting distance of reclaiming a double-digit share price. Attributable production volume grew 6% to reach 0.67 million GEOs for the quarter, with particularly strong results from the company's Fort Knox, Cupol, and La Coipa mines. Impressively, the company remains on track to meet full-year guidance for at least 2.5 million GEOs with an average cost of sales near the $700-per-GEO mark.
Looking forward, I see powerful potential for Kinross Gold to make a new name for itself as this refreshing emphasis upon quality percolates through an impressive asset portfolio. Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) remains my hands-down choice as the superior investment vehicle among the major miners of gold, and readers can access my just-completed, premium research report outlining Goldcorp's unparalleled growth potential by clicking here.
Rivals Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD) and Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) have seen their own shares battered as cost escalation, permitting woes, and other challenges have made their presence felt throughout the industry. I believe Barrick and Newmont could each receive a nice bump as gold prices breakout to a new all-time high, but among the three I believe Kinross shares offer the superior bargain.