AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third-largest gold producer, reported a worse-than-expected drop in fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, hit by higher costs and a slightly lower gold price. The group’s adjusted headline earnings per share for October-December fell 35 per cent to 76 US cents per share, from 118 cents in the previous quarter. The results were well below the average estimate of 109.4 cents in a poll of five analysts by Reuters. Its share price opened 0.54 per cent lower, underperforming a 0.50 per cent rise in Johanensburg’s benchmark index. The company said it was hit by higher cash costs, higher levels of unsold gold and the impact of a $105 million provision related to environmental costs. The average dollar gold price during the quarter was down marginally to $1,684 per ounce. But weakness in the South African currency meant in rand terms the average price during the October-December quarter was up 12 per cent to a record 438,000 rand/kg. AngloGold gets about 40 per cent of its output from its home base so this helps its bottom line, but not to the same extent as smaller rivals such as Harmony Gold which rely on South Africa for a far higher per centage of their output.