Centamin shareholders get bumper divvy, despite 2017 profit fall

Egypt-focused gold miner Centamin (TSX:CEE) (LON:CEY) delivered good news to its shareholders on Wednesdays, announcing it would pay a final dividend of 10 US cents per share, or a total of $144 million, as it vowed to return all of its excess cash to investors.

The payment, on top of 2.5 cents given at the half-year, follows an $111 million compensation to Egypt in 2017, the first year of Centamin’s profit-sharing deal with the country’s government.

The company's only producing mine — Sukari — has yielded every single commercial ounce of gold Egypt has exported over the past eight years, which by the end of 2017 stood at over 2.9 million ounces.

Such agreement, which kicked in when the company finished paying off the capital costs of Sukari, its only producing mine, gives Egypt 40% of profits for the next three years, and 50% after that.

The dividend, which almost double some analyst estimates, came despite a 13% drop in core profit for 2017 due to falling gold production and higher costs.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell to $326 million in the year ended on Dec. 31, the miner said.

Sukari, which began operations in January 2010, produced 544,658 ounces of gold last year at an all-in sustaining cost (AISC) of $790 an ounce. Set against an average price received of $1,261 per ounce, the mine generated $224 million in pre-tax profits for 2017.

“Sukari has produced every single commercial ounce of gold that Egypt has exported over the past eight years, which by the end of 2017 stood at over 2.9 million ounces,” the company’s chairman, Josef El-Raghy, said in a statement.

Centamin, which has been looking into expanding beyond Egypt by exploring and developing three gold projects in two other African countries, doubled the expected gold resource found at the Ivory Coast asset, and said it had also discovered another “exciting” discovery of a 12km-long “gold bearing structure”.

In Burkina Faso, the company is drilling the targeted resource and reserve expansion near Konkera.

Centamin chief executive, Andrew Pardey, said that despite the initial positive results outside Egypt, the company would not build a mine “for the sake of it.”

“We’d like to have a portfolio of mines, we’d like to have more mines in Egypt as well,” he told investors while delivering full-year results. “But it’s all about efficiencies and making sure those mines generate returns.”

Shares in Centamin jumped almost 2.56% in early trading in Toronto to Cdn$2.82, and were up 1.9% to 162.2 p in London mid-afternoon.