VANCOUVER (CP) - Bema Gold  said Monday that its fourth-quarter loss more than doubled to $44.6 million US, due mainly to writedowns at its Petrex mine in South Africa and startup costs at its Refugio mine in Chile.
The Vancouver-based company, which reports its results in U.S. dollars, said it lost 12 cents per share for the three months ended Dec. 31. That compared with a loss of $20.2 million US or six cents per share in the same period a year ago.
Gold revenue dipped slightly to $26.4 million, down from $26.7 million in the last three months of 2003.
Mark Corra, Bema's vice-president of finance, said the biggest item was the writeoff of the Petrex goodwill, due in part to a more bullish outlook on the South African rand.
"We revised up what we are expecting from the rand against the U.S. dollar in our projections," Corra told a conference call with analysts.
In its outlook, the company said it is projecting gold production in 2005 of about 309,000 ounces at a total cash cost of $312 per ounce.
The company said that would be a 35 per cent increase over the number of ounces produced in 2004, and a six per cent decrease in total operating cost per ounce.
The company attributed the increase in production to the resumption of operations at the 50-per-cent-owned Refugio mine and an estimated 18 per cent increase in production at the Petrex mines.
The company said it is progressing well toward starting mining, and while it would have preferred a summer start, the mine will be getting going in the winter.
Bema is estimating production from Refugio to be about 100,000 ounces this year, increasing to 250,000 ounces per year after that at an average cash cost of $250 US per ounce.
For 2004, the company said it lost $79.6 million or 22 cents per share on revenue of $92.1 million. That compared with a loss of $30.6 million or nine cents per share on revenue of $86.8 million in 2003.
Bema has made a bid to takeover Arizona Star Resource Corp. (TSXV:AZS), which holds a 25 per cent interest in the Cerro Casale gold-copper project in Chile.
Placer Dome Inc. holds a 51 per cent interest in the project and is the operator. Vancouver-based Bema Gold (TSX:BGO) holds the remaining 24 per cent.
Shares in Bema, which reported its results after markets finished trading for the day, closed down four cents to $3.33 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.