Newcrest Mining , the world's No.3 gold miner, plans to focus on expanding in Asia, where it will spend A$9 billion ($9.3 billion) to boost its gold output by 50 percent over the next five years.
Newcrest outlined the growth plan as it rewarded shareholders on Monday with a bigger-than-expected dividend and a special dividend after booking a 36 percent rise in full-year profit, thanks to bumper gold prices and its takeover of Lihir Gold.
Chief Executive Greg Robinson said he expected gold prices to remain strong, with the company opting to remain unhedged.
"We are bullish on gold prices," Robinson told reporters, but added that the company's budget for the year ahead assumed prices below current levels that are near record-highs.
While other gold miners favour new mines in Africa and South America, Newcrest wants to hone in on its projects in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia.
"We have a predominantly Asian focus in looking at both our production and our growth base," Robinson told analysts on a conference call.
"We are, however, very happy with our small position in West Africa and think that still holds high potential," he said, adding that the company would hold on to the Ivory Coast asset as long as exploration was successful there in the medium term.
Newcrest had to suspend operations at its Bonikro mine in Ivory Coast for nearly two months earlier this year due to political turmoil in the country.
As part of its move to focus on large, long-life lodes, Newcrest agreed in June to sell its 70 percent stake in the Cracow mine in Queensland and its nearby Mt Rawdon mine in return for a one-third stake in the merger of Australia's Catalpa Resources and Conquest Mining .
NO PLANS TO RESUME HEDGING
Robinson said Newcrest expects to fund its growth projects from cash flows, and would consider more special dividends or buybacks if gold prices continue to shine.
It has no plans to resume hedging, with gold prices hovering near record highs above $1,800 an ounce.
Its five-year plan includes a search for two new gold provinces, which the company could get into by acquiring undeveloped assets where discoveries had been made, but not exiting mines.
"We're not looking to buy mature production," Robinson said.
The company forecast it would produce 2.775-2.925 million ounces of gold in the year ahead, in line with broker projections, and up from 2.53 million ounces in the 2011 financial year, with cash costs seen roughly in line with 2011.
It aims to boost production by 50 percent to 4 million ounces by 2016.
Underlying profit rose to A$1.06 billion ($1.09 billion) for the year to June 2011 from A$776 million a year earlier, compared with analysts' forecasts of around A$1.07 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
It announced a special dividend of 20 cents a share, on top of a final dividend of 20 cents.
"The special dividend is quite a positive surprise," said a Sydney-based analyst, who declined to be named.
However its shares fell 1.7 percent against a higher broader market, as gold prices fell more than 1 percent on Monday, retreating further from record highs.
Newcrest's board approved plans to list the company's shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange, looking to complete legal and regulatory checks within the next six months. ($1 = 0.968 Australian Dollars) (Editing by Ed Davies and Muralikumar Anantharaman)