Centamin 2020 profit soars on strong gold prices

Sukari is Egypt’s sole gold-exporting mine and the first large-scale modern gold operation in the North African nation. (Image courtesy of Centamin.)

West Africa-focused gold miner Centamin (LON:CEY) (TSX:CEE) posted on Monday record revenue in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic pushed precious gold prices to record highs.

The company, which operates the Sukari gold mine in Egypt, said profit before tax jumped to $315 million last year, almost doubling the $173 million reported in 2019.

Net profit rose to $156 million from $87.5 million in 2019, despite producing less gold and booking higher costs per ounce.

Centamin produced around 6% fewer ounces of gold in 2020 than it did in 2019, but sold gold for 26% more per ounce. That made last year about 82% cent more profitable for the miner.  

The gold miner also declared a final dividend of 3 cents a share, bringing the full-year distribution to 9 cents — or 15 cents if including the 2019 final dividend which was replaced by an interim payment in the first quarter last year.

Looking ahead, Centamin expects to churn out between 400,000 and 430,000 ounces of gold this year at all-in sustaining costs  — which include cash costs, sustaining capital expenditure, exploration and general and administrative costs — of between $1,150 and $1,250 per ounce.

In addition, the company reiterated its intention to pay a minimum aggregate dividend of $105 million, up from $104.0 million in respect to 2020.

Turning the page

Centamin has proved resilient to recent challenges, beyond those brought by the covid-19 pandemic.

First, it fended off a takeover attempt last year by Canada’s Endeavour Mining (TSX:EDV).

In April it finally appointed a new chief executive officer, Martin Horgan, after spending about six months without a top boss.

The company has also gone through some major board changes. Those include seeing Josef El-Raghy migrate from executive chairman to chairman, 18 years after becoming managing director.

In October, the miner lowered guidance for 2020 after stability issues at the Sukari’s west wall forced the company to halt mining in the high-grade zone.

By December, the company had figured out a three-year plan for its flagship (and only) operation. The scheme aims to cut costs and boost efficiencies at Sukari, which opened in January 2010.

The operation, which comprises a large open pit and an underground mine, contributes up to $900 million a year to Egypt’s gross domestic product.

The northeastern African country has seen an influx of mining investments in the past few month, following drastic changes to regulations.

Egypt has also hosted gold exploration licences auctions, which have so far attracted mining heavyweights as well as juniors. Among the companies that have been awarded concessions over the past year are Centamin itself, as well as Barrick Gold, B2Gold, Lotus Gold and Red Sea Resources.

The government has targeted $1 billion in new investments in the mining and energy sectors by 2030.

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