AuRico Gold Inc. (NYSE: AUQ), a North American gold producer, reported higher earnings for the fourth quarter and the 2011 year on increased production. 

The Toronto-based company, which also issued production guidance for this year, reported net earnings in the fourth quarter of last year of $77.9 million, or 31 cents per share, up 166 percent from the same period last year.

Revenues of $157.8 million were up 188 percent from last year on the back increased gold production, which rose to 42,261 ounces from 29,384 ounces in 2010.

For the full year ended Dec. 31, 2011, net earnings rose to $176.9 million, or 96 cents per share, up 231 percent from 2010.  

Revenues increased to $450.1 million, up 89 percent from 2010, as gold production jumped to 157,543 ounces from 114,064 ounces.

In 2011 we have achieved many key milestones that support our vision of being a low cost intermediate gold producer focused in North America. We completed two accretive acquisitions that have significantly enhanced our production growth profile and, combined with the success of our exploration programs, have delivered a 217 percent increase in our total reserve inventory to over 8.63 million gold equivalent ounces, said CEO René Marion in a statement.

On March 27, 2012, AuRico agreed to sell two Australian mines to Crocodile Gold, another Canadian gold company, for 105 million Canadian dollars ($105.4 million).

With the sale of the Australian operations, we begin 2012 with a portfolio of quality core assets focused in North America that provide a peer-leading growth profile and a compelling value opportunity, said Marion.

AuRico Gold expects gold production in the first quarter of this year to range from 63,000 to 68,000 ounces, in the second quarter to be 96,000 to 108,000 ounces, in the third quarter to be 103,000 to 119,000 ounces and in the fourth quarter to be 108,000 to 125,000 ounces.

Shares rose 18 cents, or 2 percent, to $9.14 in midday trading.