(Adds CEO comments, updates shares)
By Zandi Shabalala and Sanjeeban Sarkar
Feb 6 (Reuters) - Gold miner Randgold Resources Ltd reported a 76 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit, boosted by higher grades and a rise in gold prices, and the company said it would raise its annual dividend by 52 percent.
Randgold shares rose as much as 5.25 percent in early trading to their highest in nearly 3 months. They were trading at 7,180 pence at 1244 GMT, leading the FTSE 100 gainers’ list .
Gold sales for the three months ended Dec. 31 rose about 28 percent to 453,051 ounces as uncertainties around U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies, the progress of Britain’s departure from the European Union, and multiple elections in Europe benefited the safe-haven asset.
Spot gold prices rose about 8.5 percent in 2016.
Randgold said it had achieved its net cash target of $500 million ahead of estimates and without any debt.
“At the end of the day it’s driven by quality grade and that drives the cash to our shareholders,” Chief Executive Mark Bristow said.
“We have not only grown our business but the capital is coming down and that is what is driving the cash.”
“Shareholders will be eyeing the company’s strong future cash flows, as evidenced by the growth in the balance sheet,” Investec said in a note.
Fellow miner Centamin Plc last week raised its dividend six fold as production rose and costs fell.
Randgold will start a prefeasibility study at the Massawa-Sofia mine in Senegal which Bristow said could be the first of three major projects that the miner will develop.
Total cash cost per ounce fell 13 percent to $549 per ounce from last year, boosted by higher grades and better recovery at its flagship Loulo-Gounkoto mine in Mali, the company said.
Randgold, which has gold mines in Mali, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said profit rose to $94.3 million for the quarter from $77.3 million a year earlier. Gold production rose about 16 percent to 378,388 ounces in the same period. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala in Cape Town and Sanjeeban Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri, Gopakumar Warrier and Shounak Dasgupta)