Gold Fields (GFIJ.J: Quote), the world's No. 4 gold producer, reported on Thursday a 146 percent jump in adjusted headline earnings per share for its third quarter, due to a higher gold price, sending its shares up.

Gold Fields, which is the second-biggest gold producer in Africa, also increased production during the quarter and posted lower costs to post an adjusted headline EPS of 204 cents in the March quarter, versus 83 cents in the December quarter.

The earnings beat market expectations. An average estimate of five analysts polled by Reuters showed they expected an adjusted headline EPS of 201 cents. Shares rose 4.5 percent by 0711 GMT to 104 rand, compared with a 2.98 percent rise in the gold mining index .

Production for the quarter rose 4 percent to 871,000 ounces, but was curbed from further gains due to operational hiccups at the group's Beatrix mine in South Africa and at a newly expanded plant at its Tarkwa operation in Ghana.

The company said it had put in place measures to ensure both operations would increase output in the current quarter.

Gold Fields forecast a 3 percent rise in output to 900,000 ounces in the fourth quarter to end-June.

Total cash costs for the March quarter fell 2 percent to $471 per ounce, but the company warned this amount would rise to $510 an ounce in the June quarter due to a stronger rand.

South African gold producers earn in dollars for their gold sales, and pay for most of their costs in rand.

The country's gold producers were expected by analysts to report big jumps in earnings and cash flow for their quarters to March, largely boosted by a stronger gold price, which outweighed lower output and higher costs.

The price of gold in the quarter averaged $908 per ounce, up 14 percent on the December quarter.

Headline earnings are the key profit measure in South Africa, stripping out capital, non-trading and some extraordinary items. Gold Fields earnings are adjusted to exclude the effects of financial instruments and foreign debt.

(Reporting by James Macharia)

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