Newcrest May Book $2.4 Billion Charge on Mines Writedown

Newcrest Mining Ltd., Australia’s largest gold producer, may write down the value of its assets by as much as A$2.5 billion ($2.4 billion) after impairments last year triggered a record full-year loss.

The expected one-time charge will be mainly for the Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea and may include the Bonikro operation in Ivory Coast and Telfer in Australia, the Melbourne-based company said today in a statement. It follows a $5.7 billion writedown on mines and other assets booked last year.

The Lihir mine was acquired in the $9 billion takeover of Lihir Gold Ltd. in 2010 and has been dogged by missed production targets. Newcrest fell the most in almost two months in Sydney trading today.

“Lihir is a problem asset, it’s difficult to be confident that it can be turned around,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst in Sydney at CMC Markets, said today by phone. “Its cost base is high compared to other parts of the group.”

Newcrest fell 4.1 percent to A$11.02 at 10:28 a.m in Sydney.

The producer has begun a review aimed at improving Lihir’s operating and financial performance, Newcrest said. “Growth will be focused on profitable, high return projects,” new Chief Executive Officer Sandeep Biswas said today in a separate statement.

The writedowns of between A$1.5 billion and A$2.5 billion are after tax and will be booked in full-year financial results to be announced next month, the producer said. The charge is in addition to a A$47 million writedown already announced against its West African exploration assets, it said.

Gold production fell 1 percent to 636,736 ounces in the three months ended June 30, from 642,032 ounces a year earlier, Melbourne-based Newcrest said today in the statement.

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