April 4, 2017 / 12:43 PM / a year ago

Central Asia Metals on the hunt for new mines, hikes dividend

LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan-focused copper miner Central Asia Metals is on the hunt for new projects after lowering its costs and achieving record production in 2016, its executive chairman said on Tuesday.

With no debt and $40.4 million in cash, Executive Chairman Nick Clarke said the London-listed company could look for new projects but did not specify which assets were under consideration or exactly how much it might spend.

“For the size of the company we have reasonably good fire power,” Clarke told Reuters. The company has a market value of about 245 million pounds ($305 million).

Higher production and profits allowed the miner to raise its 2016 dividend by 24 percent to 15.5 cents.

“We have the money to pay the dividend but also we have a bit of money to do some exploration work and look for other opportunities both in Central Asia and internationally,” Clarke said.

Its shares, which have more than doubled since listing in 2010, were up 5.3 percent to 230 pence by 1228 GMT, hitting more than one-month highs.

“A solid result from the company with no surprises and the healthy dividend yields 7 percent. The company remains the only mid-cap, cash-generative pure copper play in the market,” Investec analysts said.

The company reported record copper production of 14,020 tonnes in 2016 and said costs at its Kounrad mine in Kazakhstan fell 28 percent to $0.43 per pound, mostly due to a weaker local currency and low inflation.

The industry is recovering following a commodity slump in 2015 with a string of miners reporting record production, higher dividends and more spending.

Copper prices rose for the first time in three years in 2016, although they lagged a rebound in most other metals.

Clarke said Central Asia Metals, which has one operating mine and two exploration projects in Chile and Kazakhstan, would not invest any more money in its exploration project in Chile. He said the results of a feasibility study completed in December were not compelling at current copper prices. ($1 = 0.8044 pounds) (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; editing by Jason Neely)

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