VANCOUVER (CP) -- First Quantum Minerals Ltd. [TSX:FM; LSE:FQM] reported a third-quarter profit of $183.6 million Monday, up from a year ago, helped by increased copper production and strong prices for the company's key commodity.
The Vancouver-based company, which has operations in Africa, said the profit amounted to $2.66 per diluted share for the three months ended 30 September. That compared with a profit of $133.2 million or $1.96 per diluted share a year ago.
Revenue for the company, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, jumped to $470.4 from $328.4 million a year ago.
The average analyst estimate had been for earnings of $2.30 per diluted share based on seven analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. The average revenue estimate had been for $437 million, based on three analysts.
First Quantum also announced Monday that it has started commercial production at its Frontier copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
''The Frontier mine could not have been successfully developed without the DRC government's initiative of supporting investment in the mining industry,'' First Quantum chairman and CEO Philip Pascall said in a statement.
''Frontier will provide an important economic engine for the Katanga province providing employment for the local people, support for local businesses as well as a solid tax base for the national and provincial governments.''
Ore throughput at the Frontier processing plant is currently 15,000 tonnes per day. The plant is designed to handle 22,000 tonnes of ore per day.
The Frontier mine is forecast to produce 8,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2007 and 75,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2008.
UBS analyst Tony Lesiak increased his 12-month price target on the stock to C$121, up from $118, on Monday while he maintained a ''buy'' rating on the stock.
''The strong result was due to sequential operating improvements at all mines,'' Lesiak wrote in a note to clients.
During the quarter, copper production increased 27% from a year ago to 57,565 tonnes, while copper sales were up 32% to 60,904 tonnes.
The realized copper price was $3.35 per pound, up from $3.17 per pound a year ago.
The results were driven by strong results at the company's Kansanshi mine, where production increased 28% from a year ago to 41,159 tonnes.
Operations at the Guelb Moghrein mine also increased with higher production, increased concentrate shipments and an increase in the realized copper price.
However sales from Bwana/Lonshi fell due to low ore availability from the Lonshi pit.
The effects of the mining delays during the first half of the year continued to impact production resulting in limited high grade ore available for processing, the company said.
In its outlook for 2007, the company said based on its nine-month production figures First Quantum will produce approximately 215,000 tonnes of copper.
This guidance includes 150,000 tonnes from Kansanshi, 27,000 tonnes from Bwana/Lonshi, 30,000 tonnes from Guelb Moghrein and 8,000 tonnes from Frontier.
The company also said it expects to reduce the copper in concentrate inventories held at Kansanshi of 9,733 tonnes and Guelb Moghrein with 8,483 tonnes to more than normal operating levels of 7,500 tonnes and 2,500 tonnes respectively by year end.
First Quantum shares closed down C$5.34 at C$88.66 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
(c) The Canadian Press 2007