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Newcrest announces more sustainable dividend policy as FY'17 profit improves

Australian gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd. has committed to returning not less than 15 U.S. cents per share each financial year to shareholders as it looks to achieve a dividend payout that is sustainable over time.

The company said Aug. 14 that it will pay a final 70% franked dividend of 7.5 cents per share for the 2017 financial year, taking the total annual dividend to 15 cents per share.

The move follows a 22% year-over-year increase in underlying profit to US$394 million in fiscal 2017.

Newcrest resumed dividend repayments in 2016 after a three-year hiatus prompted by a A$5.78 billion loss in 2013.

The company's new dividend policy promises shareholders that they will receive at least 10% to 30% of free cash flow generated each financial year, with the dividend being no less than 15 cents per share on a full-year basis.

Newcrest's bottom line was helped by a 6% increase in revenue, which rose to US$3.48 billion in fiscal 2017 compared to a year earlier, while EBITDA climbed 9% to US$1.41 billion on the back of operational improvements at the Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea and the Cadia mine in New South Wales, Australia.

"Notwithstanding the seismic event that impacted Cadia and the group in the fourth quarter of FY17, Newcrest achieved a small increase in production from operations excluding Hidden Valley and achieved group production guidance for the fourth year in a row," Managing Director and CEO Sandeep Biswas said.

Fiscal 2017 gold production hit the lower end of guidance at 2.38 million ounces.

The company has identified the potential to increase the process capacity of the existing plant at Cadia to a run rate of 30 million tonnes per anum by the end of June 2018 through operational improvements and minor CapEx of about US$10 million.

Meanwhile, free cash flow for the 2017 financial year slipped 9% to US$739 million, but it still enabled Newcrest to reduce its net debt by 29% to US$1.50 billion, reducing gearing to 16.6% from 22.8%.