Freeport confident of more copper asset sales by mid-year: CEO

(Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Inc FCX.N expects to have agreed $3 billion worth of asset sales by mid-year, its chief executive said on Tuesday, as the U.S. miner and oil producer tries to whittle down a nearly $21 billion debt pile he described as "a killer."

Freeport, which is the world’s biggest listed copper producer, has already entered into agreements this year to sell $1.4 billion worth of assets, leaving another $1.6 billion’s worth to transact by end-June.

Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said Freeport was in “advanced discussions” on a number of its copper assets, but declined to name them. Freeport owns a number of world-class copper assets, including the Grasberg mine in Indonesia and the Cerro Verde mine in Peru.

“The scarcity of quality assets in the copper business is attracting significant interest from potential purchasers who share our longer term positive view of the marketplace,” he said on a conference call.

While the Phoenix, Arizona-based company expressed confidence in selling mining assets it also revealed a plan to cut about a quarter of workers in its oil and gas business after failing to sell that unit.

It said it would record a charge of about $40 million in the second quarter related to the job cuts and other restructuring costs.

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Shares in Freeport, which were weaker earlier in the day after it reported a deep quarterly loss, were last flat at $11.27.

The company, which is under pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn to cut costs and debt, said its total debt rose to $20.8 billion at the end of March from $20.4 billion on Dec. 31.

“Our company is over-leveraged,” Adkerson said. “This kind of debt is a killer.”

Freeport said in February that it was open to selling any of its copper assets at the right price to help it slash debt by between $5 billion and $10 billion.

Earlier on Tuesday, Freeport said its net loss nearly doubled to $4.18 billion, or $3.35 per share, compared with a loss of $2.47 billion, or $2.38 per share, a year earlier.

After adjusting for charges of $4 billion, mainly related to it reducing the value of its oil assets, Freeport reported a loss of $197 million or 16 cents a share - in line with analysts’ expectations of 17 cents a share.

Revenue fell 15.1 percent to $3.53 billion.

Additional reporting by Vishaka George and Kanika Sikka in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silv, Alden Bentley and Marguerita Choy