Pan American Silver (TSE:PAA)(NASDAQ:PAAS) Thursday posted a fourth-quarter net profit, helped by higher metal prices, as it raised its quarterly dividend by 50 percent.
For the fourth quarter, net income was $95.5 million, or 89 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $5.8 million, or 12 cents a share, a year ago.
On an adjusted basis, it earned 61 cents a share.
Sales for the company, which in January said it will buy Minefinders (TSE:MFL) for about $1.5 billion in order to more than double production by 2015, rose nine percent to $212.4 million.
Pan American Silver's executive vice president, geology and exploration Michael Steinmann said: "2011 was another exceptional year for our brownfield exploration programs, which not only replaced the silver ounces we mined, but also increased our Proven and Probable silver Reserves.
"Since 2004, our continued focus on mine-site exploration has generated substantial new value by adding over 198 million ounces of Proven and Probable silver Mineral Reserves, more than replacing the 165 million ounces we mined during the same period."
During the quarter, the company produced 5.3 million ounces of silver and 17,239 ounces of gold, a decrease of six and 10 percent, respectively, from a year earlier.
At 708.8 million ounces, Pan American's measured and indicated silver mineral resources at December 31, 2011 were practically flat year-on-year, while inferred silver mineral resources grew 26.5 million ounces to 271.7 million ounces.
Pan American--which mines silver and, to a lesser extent, gold in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina--predicted silver production in 2012 will reach 21.5 to 22.5 million ounces at a cash cost of $12.50 to $13.50 an ounce.
The most notable exploration success last year was at the La Colorada mine, where exploration drilling added 10.6 million new ounces of silver. In 2011, La Colorada's mineral reserves grew by 15 percent from the prior year, to 44.1 million ounces of high grade proven and probable silver mineral reserves at December 31, 2011.
La Colorada now has the second-largest mineral reserve in the company's portfolio of assets, behind the Huaron mine, which has 60.9 million ounces of silver in proven and probable mineral reserves.
Other highlights of the 2011 exploration campaign include the complete replacement of silver ounces mined during 2011 at Huaron, Quiruvilca and San Vicente; however, industry-wide cost pressures, particularly in Argentina, and the deterioration of concentrate sales terms, specifically for silver-rich copper concentrates from the company's Peruvian and Bolivian operations, impacted the exploration results at some of its operations.
The company said a cash dividend of $0.0375 per share will be distributed on or about March 19 to holders on record as of March 5, 2012.
Pan American Silver is the world's second-largest primary silver producer. It has seven mines in Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia.
The silver producer also owns the Navidad silver development project in Chubut, Argentina, the Calcatreu gold project in Rio Negro, Argentina and is the operator of the La Preciosa joint venture project in Durango, Mexico.