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Barrick Gold Corp. says its fourth-quarter profit rose to a record $896-million (U.S.) helped by higher production and lower cash costs.

The world's largest gold producer, which reports in U.S. dollars, said the earnings were equal to 90 cents per share.

That compared to $215-million or 21 cents per share in the same quarter a year before.

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On an adjusted basis, quarterly profits were ahead 57 per cent to $947-million, or 95 cents per share, handily beating analyst expectations of 91 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Quarterly sales were $2.95-billion from $2.36-billion.

For the full-year period, profit was $3.27-billion from a loss of $4.27-billion. Sales were $10.9-billion, an increase from $8.14-billion in 2009.

"We met our operating targets with higher production at lower costs than the previous year. This allowed us to fully benefit from the increase in the gold price, which resulted in significant expansion of our margins and record earnings and cash flow," said president and chief executive officer Aaron Regent in a release.

Barrick has set a goal of increasing production by nearly 20 per cent to nine million ounces per year within five years.

The company, which has been riding a soaring gold bullion price, raised its dividend last year by 20 per cent after reporting a record second-quarter profit.

Barrick's Pueblo Viejo project in the Dominican Republic is expected to begin production in the fourth quarter of this year and the Pascua-Lama on the border between Argentina and Chile, forecast to begin producing in early 2013.

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Barrick recently spun off its African operations into a new company called African Barrick Gold, which began trading on the London Stock Exchange last year.

Besides its African assets, Barrick owns and operates gold mines in Canada, the U.S., Peru, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

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