Newcrest profit plunge keeps investors waiting for return

NEWCREAST Mining expects to be in a sustainable cash position by the end of the financial year as it keeps a lid on costs and pays down debt.

Australia's largest gold miner recently improved its cash position after embarking on a massive cost cutting drive.

Analysts are confident Newcrest can reach its full year cashflow and cost targets following an improvement in the gold price and a weaker Australian dollar.

But investors will have to wait until the company pays down debt before receiving a dividend.

"The internal objective is to drive the business to the maximum cash flow and continue with the investment of Cadia East and reduce our debt," Newcrest Chief Executive Greg Robinson told reporters on Friday.

"The business will be net cash flow positive."

Newcrest shares fell 1.3 per cent on Friday after the company announced a net profit of $40 million for the six months to December 31, down 88 per cent from a first half profit of $323 million a year ago.

Free cash flow was an outflow of $229 million during the first half, but Newcrest expects to be cash flow positive by the end of the full year.

"The objective is to drive that cash flow hard and achieve a cashflow positive outcome at the lowest possible price," Mr Robinson said.

The company achieved an average gold price of $1405 an ounce during the half and is targeting a price of $1450 an ounce for the full year.

Mr Robinson confirmed Newcrest would repay debt before offering shareholders a dividend.

"In the short term, yes, we will favour debt," he said.

On Friday the company blamed the slide in first half profit on a 13 per cent fall in gold prices, a $120 million tax charge and a $47 million writedown to its exploration assets in West Africa.

Newcrest said lower gold prices over the half had offset a 26 per cent increase in gold sales volumes.

The company expects to produce around 2.3 million ounces of gold for the full year.

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