Cameco CEO 'cautiously more optimistic' on uranium industry

FILE PHOTO - A scoop loader with a bucket full of low grade uranium is tested for grade after it was drilled out at the Cameco McArthur River uranium mine site in northern Saskatchewan June 28, 2007. REUTERS/Dave Stobbe

(Reuters) - Canada’s Cameco Corp reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday although it warned of further uncertainty this year for a nuclear market that has been in the doldrums since the Fukushima meltdown in 2011.

The company posted a 4 percent rise in average prices of its uranium in the final quarter of last year. However, in a post-earnings call, Chief Executive Tim Gitzel said he was “cautiously more optimistic” about the industry.

“We have seen reduction in global demand expectations, driven by early reactor retirements, delays in reactor construction programs, slower-than-expected restart process in Japan, and by changes to government administrations,” Gitzel said.

Cameco lost 4.8 percent in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange and its U.S.-listed shares fell 4.6 percent after the results. That came as markets were falling more generally, however, and compared to a 12 percent drop after results a quarter earlier.

Uranium producers have been struggling since the 2011 tsunami that forced Japan to shut all of its nuclear reactors. Some of those have restarted since, but low demand has resulted in a glut.

Saskatchewan-based Cameco has been working to cut its losses with measures such as suspending production from the McArthur River mine in Saskatchewan, the world’s biggest uranium mine.

The company’s net loss narrowed to C$62 million ($49 million), or 16 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from C$144 million, or 36 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned 46 Canadian cents per share. Analysts had expected a profit of 35 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue fell 8.8 percent to C$809 million, hurt by lower realized prices for uranium under its Nukem unit, which handles Cameco’s marketing operations globally.

Reporting by Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel