VANCOUVER (CP) -- Higher copper prices and increased production helped First Quantum Minerals [TSX:FM; OTCPK:FQVLF] increase its second-quarter profit more than five times its mark set a year ago and the company said Tuesday it expects a stronger second half of the year.
Due to a lack of smelter capacity in Zambia, the company said it has stockpiled 9,663 tonnes of copper in concentrates that are waiting to be processed.
''With the completion of Mopani's Mufulira smelter expansion in the third quarter of 2006, all stockpiled concentrates are expected to be treated by the end of 2006,'' the company said in a news release.
''As a result, the company's revenues, cash flow and earnings are expected to be higher in the second half of 2006 compared to the first half.''
The Vancouver-based company, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, said it earned $150.5 million or $2.33 a share for the three months ended June 30. That compared to a profit of $29 million or 47 cents per share a year ago.
Revenue rose to $362.5 million compared with $86.5 million in the second quarter last year.
Five analysts, on average, had estimated earnings of $1.98 per share, according to Thomson Financial.
Copper production was up 68% to 106.1 million pounds, while the company's average realized copper price was $3.44, up from $1.42 per pound a year ago.
Total costs for the quarter were $1.07 per pound compared with 80 cents per pound for the second quarter of 2005.
UBS analyst Tony Lesiak maintained his rating of ''Buy 2'' on the company Tuesday, but increased his price target to $65, up from $63.50, as copper sales are expected to increase to 120 million pounds in the third quarter and 137 million in the fourth, with further catalysts expected.
''First Quantum is expected to release a revised resource update for Guelb Moghrein and an engineering study for its Frontier project before year end,'' Lesiak wrote in a note to clients.
''We also anticipate an exploration update at Kashime and other regional projects.''
First Quantum owns mines and properties in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritania.
First Quantum said it expects to buy the remaining 25% it does not already own by Aug. 11.
On Tuesday, First Quantum shares closed up C$1.88 to C$54.18 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
(c) The Canadian Press 2006