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UPDATE 3-Freeport-McMoRan swings into Q1 profit as copper prices rise

·2 min read
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(Adds details from conference call, share movement) April 22 (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Inc on Thursday reported first-quarter profit in line with Wall Street expectations, benefiting from higher metals prices driven by economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in some parts of the world. The copper producer posted net income of $718 million, or 48 cents per share, compared with a loss of $491 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, Phoenix-based Freeport earned 51 cents per share, matching an average of analyst expectations, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Shares fell about 3% to $34.82 in Thursday midday trading. Some analysts had expected higher profit. Benchmark prices for copper, widely used in power and construction, hit a 9-1/2 year high of $9,617 a tonne in February, near the all-time peak of $10,190 set in 2011. Copper is seen as a major beneficiary of infrastructure investments as the world shifts towards a lower carbon economy. "Freeport is notably well-positioned to benefit from these fundamentals," Chief Executive Richard Adkerson told investors on a Thursday conference call. The average price Freeport received per pound of the metal rose 62% in the quarter, while production increased about 24% to 910 million lbs. Freeport has considered expansions in the United States to take advantage of rising prices and expects to make a decision by the end of the year, Adkerson said. The company reinstated its quarterly dividend during the quarter and named Adkerson as chairman. In Peru, where Freeport operates one of the world's largest copper mines, voters head to polls in June for a presidential run-off where the leading candidate is a socialist vowing to rewrite the country's constitution. Adkerson said that Freeport has purposefully stayed out of the country's politics, but noted the company has stability agreements in place should a new government try to change any operating agreements. (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Jan Harvey and Barbara Lewis)