Freeport McMoRan Surges Past Estimates

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Freeport McMoRan ( FCX) shares leapt more than 5% before the open Wednesday after the company reported a bumper first quarter.

Surging copper and gold prices amid a general commodities boom early in the year lifted the mining giant's results. The company easily beat Wall Street's forecast and decided to pay out some of its torrid cash flow to investors, declaring a special dividend of 50 cents a share.

The stock was changing hands recently at $54.56, up 5.5% from the close in Tuesday's regular session. Freeport shares, along with metals names across the board, have slipped from their 52-week highs, reached earlier this year, as investors worry about a top in commodities markets. Copper especially had soared to new heights amid the boom.

For the first quarter, Freeport reported a per-share profit of $1.5 billion, or $1.57 a share, compared with analysts' estimates of $1.26. Revenue reached $5.7 billion; analysts were looking for $5.3 billion.

In the 2010 first quarter, Freeport earned $897 million, or a buck a share.

The figures represent growth of 67% on the bottom line and 31% on the top.

Freeport said its average selling price for both copper and gold in the first quarter reached ($4.21 a pound and $1,399 an ounce) were 26% higher than a year ago.

The Phoenix-based miner, which owns the huge Grasberg copper-and-gold mine in Indonesia, also adjusted its production forecast for 2011 slightly higher. The company said it expects to sell 3.9 billion pounds of copper and 1.6 million ounces of gold, up from prior estimates of 3.85 billion pounds of copper and 1.4 million ounces of gold.

Raw materials demand from Asia -- particularly India and China, the world's most voracious buyer of metals and minerals -- has helped lift commodities prices around the world. Copper, chiefly used in electrical wire, has especially benefited, and sales to Asia have in effect bankrolled Freeport ever since the financial crisis laid the rest of the world's economies low.

Also Wednesday, BHP Billiton ( BHP) issued its performance review of the first quarter, saying iron ore shipments were up 7% from a year ago, though coking coal production, nearly halted by devastating floods in Australia early in the year, fell by 18%.

On Tuesday, the Canadian diversified miner Teck Resources ( TCK) presaged Freeport's bullish first-quarter report with a bullish one of its own. Teck shares were rising 2.5% in Wednesday's premarket after gaining more than 7% in the previous session.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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