UPDATE 1-Northam Platinum sees subdued earnings growth

Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:38am EDT

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JOHANNESBURG Aug 24 (Reuters) - Northam Platinum, one of South Africa's smaller platinum producers, said it expected subdued earnings growth as the industry grappled with increasingly violent labour unrest and depressed prices.

The group on Friday posted full-year headline earnings 9.6 percent lower, hit by a smelter shutdown which cut volumes available for sale.

Declining earnings have been reported across the platinum sector and come against the backdrop of increasingly violent labour disruptions at South African operations.

Headline earnings per share for the financial year to end-June dipped to 80.9 cents from 89.5 cents. The group said it would pay a dividend of 5 cents.

Production of precious metals in concentrates was up 15.4 percent at 288,675 ounces and the company said its flagship Booysendal Mine was expected to start production in the second half of its 2013 financial year.

Northam plans to launch a 2 billion rand ($240.40 million)bond to raise additional funding for the Booysendal project in South Africa.

More than half of the 4 billion rand needed to fund the development, which could double production, has been funded with internally generated cash.

Raising funds might prove challenging in light of the labour unrest at platinum mines that last week resulted in 34 striking mineworkers being gunned down at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

Northam acknowledged that it "may also be affected by recent events in the industry" and this, combined with the economic and social uncertainties in global markets, resulted in its outlook for earnings growth remaining subdued.

Aside from fears that the unrest could spill over to other mines in the Rustenburg area, platinum producers are grappling with rising input costs and declining metals prices.

Shares of Northam have fallen along with those of the platinum majors, shedding more than 27 percent in the past year. (Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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