Freeport-McRoRan

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reported much lower fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday, citing negative affects from an October rock slide at a mining site in Indonesia.

Shares of the company were falling 45 cents, or 0.2%, to $35.97 recently.

The New Orleans-based copper, gold and silver mining company earned $200,000, or breakeven on a per-share basis, in the quarter, compared with a profit of $64.1 million, or 41 cents a share, in the fourth quarter last year.

Freeport-McRoRan said earnings were lowered $4.3 million, or 2 cents a share, by equipment lost in an Oct. 9 rock slide at its Grasberg open pit and by $2 million, or 1 cent a share, for charges related to the early extinguishment of debt. The results were also negatively impacted by reduced mill throughput and lower ore grades after the rock slide.

Analysts were expecting a profit of 6 cents a share.

Fourth-quarter metal sales were 163.5 million pounds of copper and 273,200 ounces of gold. The company again cited the rock slide in October, but Freeport-McRoRan said it expects to reopen the mining areas affected by the rock slide in the second quarter 2004.

The company also said full-year 2003 earnings were $154.2 million, or 97 cents a share, including certain charges, from $127.1 million, or 87 cents a share, in full-year 2002.

Annual metal sales for 2003 were 1.3 billion pounds of copper and 2.5 million ounces of gold, the company said.

Analysts were expecting $1.22 a share in the full year.

"Our 2003 results reflect our ability to generate strong cash flows in a low commodity price environment with substantial upside to rising prices," said Richard C. Adkerson, president and chief executive.

Looking ahead, the company lowered its 2004 copper and gold sales estimates to 1 billion pounds of copper, from a previous estimate of 1.4 billion pounds, and to 1.5 million ounces of gold, down from 2.2 million ounces. But in 2005, the company upped its expected estimates on copper to 1.5 billion pounds, from 1.3 billion pounds, and for gold to 2.9 million ounces, from 2.1 million ounces.

Average annual sales volumes in the next five years are expected to be about 1.34 billion pounds of copper and 2.2 million ounces of gold, the company said.