* Newcrest seeks independent review over analysts' briefings
* String of company downgrades preceded profit warning
* Newcrest reiterates has done nothing wrong
* Person named to head review owns 30,000 Newcrest shares
(Adds reviewer's Newcrest holdings, company comments on
By James Regan
SYDNEY, June 25 Australia's Newcrest Mining Ltd
, the world's third biggest gold producer, will launch
an external review after concerns were raised that it may have
supplied market sensitive information to a small number of
securities analysts this month.
The probe is set to be completed in a couple of months,
ahead of an investigation by the Australian Securities and
Investments Commission for possible breaches of continuous
disclosure laws, which could take a year or more to complete.
Newcrest issued a profit warning on June 7, announcing
writedowns that could reach $6 billion but the warning was
preceded by series of brokerage downgrades, prompting questions
about its disclosure practices.
The gold miner reiterated on Tuesday it had not given
information to analysts that was not generally available in the
market but said it wanted an outside perspective.
Former Australian Securities Exchange chairman, Maurice
Newman, was appointed to conduct the review. Newman disclosed
that he owned 30,000 or around A$270,000 worth of Newcrest
shares. The company has 766.5 million shares outstanding. His
fee is yet to be determined.
"If steps are required to be taken as a result of the review
of these matters, the board will ensure that this occurs without
delay," Newcrest Chairman Don Mercer said in a statement.
The June 7 news of the writedowns, which came on the back of
high costs for mining and a sharp drop in bullion prices, sent
Newcrest's shares down 14 percent to a nine-year low at one
point. That added to a 12 percent slide over the previous two
sessions after UBS, Credit Suisse, Citi, Deutsche Bank and
Morgan Stanley all downgraded their outlooks on the miner.
Analysts contacted by Reuters have declined to comment on
Newcrest Chief Executive Greg Robinson said individual
meetings had taken place with analysts and members of management
between April and June, but that the discussions covered only
information previously disclosed to the wider market regarding
the previous quarter's performance.
"They had meetings under the normal IR standards," Robinson
said. "We believe they did their jobs and the inquiry will look
at that issue."
Shares in Newcrest, which is cutting hundreds of jobs from
operations in Papua New Guinea and closing an Australian office
in Brisbane, were down 2.5 percent at A$9.29 as of 0450 GMT,
compared with a mainly flat broader market.
(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)