* Basing budget on $1,200 gold price
* Natalka main driver of output growth
* Increases capital expenditure for next-generation projects
MOSCOW, Feb 11 (Reuters) – Russian gold miner Polyus said it was investing in a new generation of projects, after posting record earnings, boosted by strong gold prices and higher output from the full ramp-up of its Natalka deposit in Russia’s the Far East.
Polyus, Russia’s largest gold producer, said its full-year adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) stood at a record $2.7 billion, up 44% on the previous year.
Fourth-quarter adjusted EBITDA rose 25% compared to the previous quarter, reaching $883 million, driven by higher sales.
The company’s overall gold output in 2019 rose 16% year-on-year to 2.8 million ounces.
“The key driver was Natalka,” chief executive Pavel Grachev said, adding that the output results beat company forecasts.
Polyus said on Tuesday it was raising its capital expenditure forecast for 2020 to $700-$750 million, up from a previous estimate of $550 million, after approving new projects and increasing its exploration activities.
“We are entering a new stage of the company’s development and the development of next-generation projects,” Grachev said.
Polyus began construction work at Natalka, an open-pit gold deposit, in 2012 and the mine began operating at full capacity at the end of 2018.
The deposit’s output of refined gold reached 405 thousand ounces in 2019, up 205% on the previous year, Polyus said in a presentation for investors.
Average realised refined gold prices rose 11% year-on-year in 2019, Polyus said.
It is basing its budget on a gold price of $1,200 per ounce, compared with spot prices of around $1,570 on Tuesday.
The company’s board of directors approved a dividend payout for the second half of 2019 of $3.5 per ordinary share.
Polyus said it has completed exploration and development drilling at Sukhoi Log, one of the world’s largest gold greenfield projects, adding that it will publish the results of an analysis of the deposit’s reserves later this year.
It also said on Tuesday that it is preparing to repay around $700 million in Eurobonds in 2020, using its own funds to do so. (Writing by Polina Ivanova and Anastasia Lyrchikova; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Barbara Lewis)