Harmony looks at ways to cut costs

Further drops in the price of gold would necessitate further reorganisation, Harmony chief executive officer Graham Briggs said on Friday.

Further drops in the price of gold would necessitate further reorganisation, Harmony chief executive officer Graham Briggs said on Friday.

Briggs said while the company recently undertook a dramatic clean-up of its assets, Harmony would have to revisit its strategy should the gold price fall below R200000 a kilogram.

Gold producers have cashed in on a strengthening gold price with most South African-focused producers reporting increased revenues despite a drop in production due to safety and power-related shutdowns.

According to Kitco Bullion Dealers, gold has been trading at a cumulative average of $911,59 (about R7211) an ounce this year but has only averaged $861,05 (about R6813) this month to date.

The precious yellow metal slid further on Friday morning to fall below the key $800 an ounce level for the first time since December last year.

Harmony has just come through a turbulent year following last year's exit of chief executive Bernard Swanepoel and an accounting error that saw results misreported.

The appointment of Briggs saw the company conduct a comprehensive review of all its assets and operations.

Declaring a "back to basics" strategy, one of the first things undertaken was a company-wide clean-up that resulted in the sale of some assets and the signing of several new partnerships.

Stringent cost control measures were put in place, all capital expenditure was reviewed and continuous operations were halted at all but one mine.

These "harsh decisions" meant the company had to take some pain. Restructuring resulted in the transfers of 13101 employees and the termination of employment of 5119 employees at a cost of R212million.

"A year ago costs were higher than the gold price. This year, gold is higher than costs," said Briggs.

But he said there was always opportunity for further rationalisation and cost cutting.

Exploration projects in and around current operations would be among the first to go, he said.- I-Net Bridge

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