Harmony Gold Mining Co. (HARJ.J: Quote), the world's No.5 producer, on Friday reported lower output and headline earnings per share for the March quarter at 123 cents from a re-stated 121 cents in the December quarter.

A Reuters poll of five analysts showed they expected the company to post headline EPS of 141 cents for the third quarter.

Production fell to 349,801 ounces in the three months to end-March, and the lower output pushed cash costs higher to $537 per ounce from $527 an ounce in the December quarter.

Harmony said it expected the uncertainty in world-wide markets in the wake of the financial crisis would support a stronger gold price.

In the March quarter, the gold price hit record highs above 300,000 rand ($35,710) per kg and $900 an ounce.

Gold has become a currency rather than a commodity - a good reason for us to remain bullish about the gold price, Graham Briggs, Harmony's chief executive officer said.

Despite the fall in output, Harmony maintained its long term target of achieving 2.2 million ounces a year in 2012, citing a series of new mines the company expected to launch.

Harmony, Africa's third biggest producer, also said it was debt free and was still conducting due diligence on various assets, but had yet to find suitable assets to acquire.

Briggs said the company was striving to improve so that it could deliver on a promise of paying a dividend in future.

(Reporting by James Macharia)

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