UPDATE 1-Newmont adjusted profit drops on lower output
* Adjusted earnings beat Street estimate
* Incoming CEO to focus on cost control
* Company to proceed with only most promising new projects
TORONTO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Newmont Mining Corp, the No. 1 U.S. gold producer, reported on Thursday a smaller-than-expected 4 percent drop in adjusted fourth-quarter profit on lower metal production and higher operating costs, which it vowed to bring under control.
The company said a more disciplined approach to spending and cutting costs are its top priority as leadership of the company shifts to Gary Goldberg, who takes over the top job from current Chief Executive Richard O'Brien on March 1.
Goldberg, whose promotion from chief operating officer was announced in December, pledged to focus on reducing production costs at the global mining company and said Newmont would only proceed with the most promising opportunities in its portfolio.
Denver-based Newmont is planning some $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion in capital spending in 2013, with about 40 percent of that on development projects and the remaining 60 percent earmarked as sustaining capital.
The company, which shelved its $5 billion Conga mine in Peru last year after violent protests, is finishing construction on the Akyem mine in Ghana, with first production expected later this year.
The company is also advancing stripping work on Phase 6 at its Batu Hijau mine in Indonesia, where it will continue to process stockpiled ore until material from the new phase can be used as feed for the mill.
Adjusted to remove one-time items, earnings dropped to $552 million, or $1.11 a share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31. That compared with $577 million, or $1.17 cents, a year earlier.
Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of 97 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net income dropped $673 million in the quarter, compared with a loss of $1.02 billion in the year-ago period, when it booked a $1.6 billion non-cash impairment charge on its Hope Bay project in Nunavut, a northern Canadian territory.
Newmont has struck a deal to sell the Arctic project to a privately held Canadian company.
The company previous announced gold production of some 1.25 million ounces in the fourth quarter, compared with 1.3 million ounces in the fourth quarter of 2011. Copper production fell to 35 million pounds, down from 45 million pounds a year ago.
Full-year gold production fell to 5 million ounces, down from 5.2 million ounces in 2011. Newmont said it plans to produce some 4.8 million to 5.1 million ounces in 2013.