* 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 analysts briefings)
By James Regan
SYDNEY, June 25 (Reuters) - 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 the situation.
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)