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1Q profit falls at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold

PHOENIX (AP) -- Mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. said on Thursday that its first-quarter net income fell, as the quality and volume of its gold declined.

Net income dropped to $648 million, or 68 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31. That was down 15 percent from $764 million, or 80 cents per share, in the 2012 first quarter.

The company would have earned 73 cents per share if not for the cost of paying off debt, matching the average profit expectation of analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue fell slightly to $4.58 billion, from $4.61 billion a year ago. Analysts had been expecting $4.65 billion.

Gold sales fell almost 26 percent to 214,000 ounces, less than it had predicted in January. Some of the decline was because of the timing of shipments, and it also had an anticipated drop in the grade of ore coming from Indonesia. Realized gold prices fell 5 percent to $1,606 per ounce.

Copper sales rose 15 percent to 954 million pounds, as production rose in Indonesia and Africa.

Molybdenum sales rose 19 percent to 25 million pounds, because of stronger sales to metallurgical and chemical companies.

The Phoenix company, which owns and operates mining operations in Indonesia, Africa and the Americas, affirmed its predictions for 2013 gold sales of 1.4 million ounces, and 4.3 billion pounds of copper. It predicted 92 million pounds of molybdenum, up by 2 million pounds from its earlier prediction.

It said it expects second-quarter sales of 1 billion pounds of copper, 295,000 ounces of gold, and 23 million pounds of molybdenum.

The company said it has lined up debt financing for its planned acquisitions of Plains Exploration & Production Co. and McMoRan Exploration Co. for $20 billion in total, including the assumption of debt. It said it still expects those acquisitions to close during the second quarter.

Shares fell 57 cents, or 2 percent, to $27.43 in morning trading after hitting another 52-week low of $27.51 shortly after the market opened. It was the fourth time this week the stock has dropped to a low, as gold prices have fallen sharply in recent days.