UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Harmony posts surprise Q4 loss

Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:09am EDT

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JOHANNESBURG Aug 16 (Reuters) - Harmony Gold, South Africa's third-largest gold producer, slid to a surprise fourth-quarter loss on Thursday despite a 14 percent increase in production.

A headline loss per share of 20 cents was reported for the three months to end-June, down from a profit of 234 cents the previous quarter.

The shock decline is significantly lower than the average 110.4 cents profit forecast in a Reuters poll of 5 analysts.

Gold production, including discontinued operations, climbed to 320,351 ounces on higher tonnage and improved grade but cash operating costs rose 5 percent to nearly 280,000 rand per kilogramme, mainly due to an increase in electricity tariffs.

A final dividend of 50 cents a share was declared, bringing the total full year dividend to 90 cents.

Chief executive Graham Briggs told a media conference call that with 1.7 billion rand ($207 million) in cash on its books, the company had no need to raise any capital.

The gold producer has the bulk of its operations in South Africa but has set its sights on developing the massive Wafi-Golpu copper-gold prospect in Papua New Guinea.

Built in partnership with Australian gold company Newcrest Mining, the mine is expected to cost around $4 billion. ($1 = 8.2248 South African rand) (Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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