By MATTHEW BROWN
HELENA, Mont. (AP) â¿¿ A Montana precious metals mining company targeted for takeover by a group that includes former Gov. Brian Schweitzer reported Wednesday that its profits dropped almost 62 percent in 2012.
Stillwater Mining Co.'s year-end results showed the company had $55 million in net income, down from $144 million in 2011. Revenues for the Billings-based platinum and palladium miner fell 12 percent, to $800 million, as prices for the metals dropped through much of last year.
Schweitzer and a New York-based hedge fund, the Clinton Group, announced this week their intentions to oust Stillwater's board. They want to seat a new slate of directors, including the former governor, who's been mentioned by pundits as a possible candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
The former governor criticized the company's pursuit of a copper mine in Argentina and a copper and palladium project in Canada, and called for an overhaul of company management.
But Stillwater Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank McAllister said during a Wednesday conference call with investors and analysts that the company's primary focus remains on its Montana operations â¿¿ two mines in southern Montana's Beartooth Mountains and a metals recycling plant.
The metals are sold primarily for use in catalytic converters used to reduce automobile pollution.
McAllister said growing auto industry demand means platinum and palladium prices are poised to increase, boosting the company's future prospects.
"We're excited about where we are positioned. The palladium market's outlook and growth are very, very good," McAllister said.
Stillwater shares on the New York Stock Exchange rose 50 cents, or more than 2 percent, to $13.38 through late Wednesday trading.
The company employs more than 1,500 people â¿¿ more than any other mining company in Montana â¿¿ and is seeking to boost production during the next several years with expansions underway at its mines in the Beartooths.