October 23, 2019 / 12:20 PM / 21 days ago

Freeport posts loss on lower copper output, prices

(Reuters) - Freeport McMoRan Inc (FCX.N) posted a third-quarter loss on Wednesday in line with expectations due to lower copper production at its Peruvian and Indonesian mines and a drop in prices for the red metal.

The company has been shifting to underground mining from an open pit at its giant Grasberg mine in Indonesia and had previously warned that production would take a hit. [nL1N21R17K

The drawn out Sino-U.S. trade war and fears of slowing global growth have forced some of the biggest copper consumers, including China, to curb their appetite for the metal, pushing down prices.

“Copper markets today are clearly affected by the trade war,” Freeport Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said on a Wednesday conference call with investors.

Still, copper is a key material used to make electric vehicles and other technological equipment, fueling optimism on long-term demand, Adkerson said.

The average price Freeport received for copper fell 6.4% to $2.62 per pound in the third quarter, while production fell 14%. Gold output tumbled 56.2%.

Freeport also said copper sales were lower in South America, dented by lower grades and recovery rates at its Cerro Verde mine in Peru.

The company reported a net loss of $131 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a profit of $556 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company posted a loss of 1 cent per share, in line with estimates, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of the Phoenix, Arizona-based company were up 2.6% Wednesday morning at $10.21 as broader markets and copper prices CMCUc1 rose.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru and Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Aditya Soni and Tom Brown

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