Saracen flags record quarter

SARACEN Mineral Holdings expects to report a record March quarter of production in the coming weeks.
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The company said group production was estimated to come in at a record 150,000-155,000 ounces of gold as its 50% share of the Super Pit contributes its first full quarter.

Saracen produced 216,452oz of gold in the December 2019 half.

The company said it had implemented a host of controls and procedures to protect health and safety in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, but to date, those measures had minimal impact on production.

Saracen said there was no certainty operations wouldn't be impacted in the coming quarter.

It maintained its full-year guidance of more than 500,000oz of gold, but said it would continually review the target.

"Our number one obligation is to protect our people and, in the process, the wider community," Saracen managing director Raleigh Finlayson said.

"While the measures taken so far have had minimal impact on our production, these are not ‘business as usual' times."

The company said commissioning of the Carosue Dam mill expansion is likely to be delayed from the December quarter to the March quarter of 2021.

People movements are being limited and discretionary spending, including greenfields exploration, has been deferred.

"The controls and restrictions we have put in place in recent weeks are likely to impact our mining production rates in the coming quarter," Finlayson said.

"At this stage, with the benefit of substantial ore stockpiles, we expect the impact to be limited on mill production, but we will ensure we keep all stakeholders informed if and when circumstances change in the future."

Saracen has stockpiles containing more than 1.7 million ounces of gold.

The company estimates it will have A$325-330 million cash at the end of March, with debt of $360 million.

Precautionary discussions are underway with lenders to maximise flexibility, including the potential to draw down the $45 million revolver facility, delay debt repayments, and roll hedges forward.

Finlayson said further measures would be taken "without hesitation" if required.

"Saracen's long-standing strategy to ‘future-proof the business' offers a high degree of resilience to the risks and challenges posed by COVID-19, in particular the prudent build-up of surface ore stockpiles for processing to the tune of 1.7 million ounces," he said.

RBC Capital Markets analysts said Saracen was well-placed due to its large stockpiles.

"We remain constructive on Saracen as the company remains well-positioned to deliver production, reserve and earnings growth in 2H and beyond (assuming no impact from COVID-19)," analysts said.

"In contrast to many peers, we see things continuing to improve in the future. Given this, and the upside to our price target we retain our outperform rating."

RBC has a $4 price target.

Saracen shares were up 4.4% to $3.695, pushing the company's market value back through $4 billion.