Phelps Dodge Fourth-Quarter Earnings Beat Forecasts

Copper miner Phelps Dodge said fourth-quarter earnings rose sharply, helped by strong prices for copper and molybdenum and gains on investments.

Net income rose to $1.32 billion, or $6.50 a share, up from earnings of $121 million, or 60 cents a share, a year ago.

Results in the latest period included special gains of $364.1 million, or $1.79 a share, while last year's results included a one-time charge of $204.2 million, or $1.01 a share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding the gain in the latest period, Phelps Dodge would have earned $4.71 a share.

Analysts, on average, expected Phelps Dodge would earn $4.28 a share on $3.49 billion in sales, according to a Thomson Financial survey.

Revenue rose 43% to $3.24 billion from $2.26 billion a year ago.

The higher revenue came amid declining production.

Copper production fell to 320,000 tons from 321,800 tons in the year-ago quarter. But copper prices averaged $3.206 a pound on the London Metal Exchange, up sharply from $1.951 in the year-earlier period and down slightly from the $3.479 averaged in the third quarter.

Molybdenum production rose to 16.8 million pounds from 14.5 million pounds last year.

The report may be Phelps Dodge's last as a publicly traded copper company. Last November, it agreed to be acquired by Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold . The $26 million deal would create the world's largest publicly traded copper miner, and is expected to close in March.

Several hedge funds initially argued against the deal, saying it didn't fairly value Phelps Dodge. However, one prominent shareholder, Atticus Capital, is now throwing its weight behind the Freeport offer.

Phelps Dodge held a conference call and webcast at 9:30 am New York time.