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Freeport-McMoRan 1st-quarter profit plunges

PHOENIX — Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. on Wednesday said its first-quarter net income applicable to common stock fell 96 percent amid a global economic downturn that has crushed commodity prices as demand for base metals has dropped.

The world’s largest publicly traded copper company reported earnings of $43 million, or 11 cents per share, down from $1.1 billion, or $2.64 per share during the same period last year.

To cope with weakened commodity prices, Freeport-McMoRan has cut production, postponed projects and laid off thousands of miners to control costs. It also limited investment when credit markets tightened.

Revenue slid 54 percent to $2.6 billion from $5.67 billion.

Analysts projected profit of 13 cents per share on revenue of $2.69 billion.

Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan said its first-quarter consolidated sales from mines climbed to 1 billion pounds of copper, 545,000 ounces of gold and 10 million pounds of molybdenum. That compares with 911 million pounds of copper, 280,000 ounces of gold and 20 million pounds of molybdenum during the same period in 2008.

The company estimated its 2009 consolidated sales from its mines will amount to 3.9 billion pounds of copper, 2.3 million ounces of gold and 50 million pounds of molybdenum. Copper is used in a variety of products, from wiring and electronics to housing construction while molybdenum is used to strengthen steel.

Shares of the company fell $1.21, or 3 percent, to $39.52 in premarket trading. The stock has ranged from $15.70 to $127.24 over the past year.

AP-WS-04-22-09 0859EDT

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