April 12, 2018 / 7:52 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-London-listed miner CAML reports 35 pct jump in core earnings

(Adds detail, executives’ quotes)

LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Base metals miner Central Asia Metals (CAML) reported a 35 percent rise in 2017 core earnings as prices improved, allowing it to raise its dividend.

The London-listed miner said earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to $53.8 million from $39.9 million a year earlier.

Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange jumped 31 percent in 2017 while zinc prices gained 29 percent.

CAML acquired the Sasa mine in Macedonia in September for $402.5 million, which was funded through a combination of debt and equity.

Chairman Nick Clarke said CAML was still integrating the Sasa mine into the group, having taken economic ownership in the last two months.

CAML, which mines mainly copper, zinc and lead, reported that net debt jumped to $138.9 million from no debt and net cash of $40.3 million last year.

The company aims to reduce debt over next few years but is comfortable with a net debt to EBITDA ratio which will be close to 1 by the end of the year, incoming chief executive officer Nigel Robinson told Reuters.

The company appointed Robinson and Gavin Ferrar as chief financial officer while Clarke will move from executive chairman to chairman.

CAML proposed a final dividend of 10 pence, taking its 2017 total payout to 16.5 pence from 15.5 pence a year earlier.

Copper production at the Kounrad mine in Kazakhstan was marginally higher at 14,103 tonnes. Its 2018 output is expected to be between 13,000 and 14,000 tonnes. Zinc and lead output at Sasa mine is expected to remain largely flat in 2018.

Clarke said CAML was still considering buying new mines but that the priority would be to fully integrate the newly acquired Sasa mine into the group.

“Nothing is off the table and we look at lots of things,” he said.

“Do we look at (acquisitions) in Southern Africa? Yes, but amongst lots of other countries in the world,” Clarke said, adding that the main requirement was for the potential acquisition to be low cost.

Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; editing by Susan Fenton and Jason Neely

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