In the media

DRDGOLD dividend to 'patient' investors likely in June, says CEO Sayers

[Miningweekly] - Adividend to “patient” share-holders is likely to be declared at the upcoming June year-end, says JSE-listed DRDGOLD CEO John Sayers.

Adividend to “patient” share-holders is likely to be declared at the upcoming June year-end, says JSE-listed DRDGOLD CEO John Sayers.

Net profit for the quarter to March 31 was up 56%, to R132-million, new CFO Craig Barnes reports.

There is R790-million worth of cash on the balance sheet, which puts the company in a position to fund its growth.

“Our margin has increased considerably in the quarter to almost 40% from 12,9 % in the previous quarter,” Barnes says.

Sayers says that there is little doubt that “there will be some form of distribution”.

“Our shareholders deserve some cash reward after their patience of the last few years,” he says.

Sayers is satisfied that DRDGOLD now has sufficient cash flow to fund its own growth and maintenance initiatives.

He also lets it be known that the company will also have to go to the market, “in some form or another”, to fund the East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM) Two project and the Ergo project.

“They’re both major projects,” Sayers says.

DRDGOLD management has worked its way through being unstable and underfunded and has reached a level of steadiness.

“We believe we are now in a sustainable profit situation and we are now looking at growth, which we can fund,” he says.

The company’s balance sheet is strengthened by a “very concrete” pipeline of projects and, even down to a rand gold price of R150 000/kg, it is in a position to be able to support the growth of capital expenditure.

In no small part, Crown’s surface operations are buoying the com- pany and energy uncertainty does not have the company fazed.

“We feel we can maintain our production levels, provided Eskom can give us the 95% power it is giving us now, and provided it gives us notice of impending cuts, should they come.

“That is critical from a safety viewpoint - we need four hours’ notice to get our personnel out of the shafts,” says Sayers.

There is a rightsizing plan for ERPM, where a 60-day consultation with the labour unions is under way in order to retrench 400 people as a way of cutting costs.

On the other side of the coin, ERPM is also described as a “key element in our strategic drivers”.

DRDGOLD’s operating profit increased 199%, to R142,2-million, in the quarter to March 31.

Cash operating costs declined 3%, to R356,4-million.

Headline profit rose from R9,2-million to R103-million and its “strong” balance sheet is able to fund growth.

The problem child is ERPM, but hopes are up that a re-engineering of the underground infrastructure can make it far more like Blyvoor, where the margin of profit is enlarging.

DRDGOLD South Africa MD Niel Pretorius reports that ERPM’s grade was down 34% in the quarter after seismicity slowed mining of higher- grade areas.

A decision was made to stop mining some of the lower-grade areas, which were making a negative contribution.

“The ERPM orebody is simply not playing along,” says Pretorius.

The infrastructure is capable of delivering 28 000 t/m, but the orebody yield is such that money can be made at that volume.

“Part of our current strategy is to try to find that point where grade, volume and cost per ton converge,” Pretorius says.

DRDGOLD is likely to take a deci- sion on the future of the ERPM under- ground operation by December 2008, once the relevant studies have been completed.

Management needs to be convinced that it can retrieve ore with a grade of 6,5 g/t through the redesign of the infrastructure, before it will embark on the underground expansion.

While ERPM’s water is necessary to the resuscitation of Ergo, DRD- Gold is spending about R2,5-million a month on pumping costs, which is vital to maintain the level of the Wits basin, and prevent acid mine drainage in the entire region. For this, DRDGOLD is receiving a government subsidy of R1,5-million a month.

The cash-cow Crown surface- material business needs the Top Star material to come on line.

“Top Star has to happen, and it has to happen soon,” says Pretorius.

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