(Adds detail, background, CEO comment)
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Gold miner AngloGold Ashanti ANGJ.J said on Monday it would double its dividend payout ratio as profits soared and borrowings decreased on the back of stronger gold prices.
Higher precious metals prices, including gold's surge to record highs above $2,000 an ounce earlier this year, have offered miners a lifeline after production disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Doubling our dividend payout ratio demonstrates confidence in our ability to both improve direct returns to shareholders and to self-fund our growth projects and sustaining capital requirements," said AngloGold Ashanti interim Chief Executive Officer Christine Ramon.
The miner said it would now pay shareholders 20% of free cash flow before growth capital expenditures, up from 10%, and would make both annual and semi-annual dividend payments.
AngloGold, which has mines in several African countries as well as Australia and Brazil, said free cash flow nearly quadrupled year-on-year for the third quarter ended Sept. 30.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization during the quarter rose 72% to $803 million from last year, with production rising 1% to 837,000 ounces despite pandemic-related disruptions and stoppages.
AngloGold reinstated its annual output forecast in September, to between 3.03 million ounces and 3.10 million ounces, including output to the end of the quarter from its South African assets which it sold to Harmony Gold HARJ.J .
The miner withdrew its outlook in March as the pandemic accelerated and many governments restricted travel, closed borders and ordered some operations to close.
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