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Why the Independence Group NL share price got hammered today

It was a good day for the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) which saw a 0.7% gain, but the same cannot be said for all the shares on the index.

It certainly was a day to forget for shareholders of Independence Group NL (ASX: IGO) who watched on as its share price suffered a steep 11% decline, knocking around $150 million off its market value.

The sell-off occurred due to the release of the company’s quarterly report. This revealed a disappointing quarter which saw year-over-year declines in revenue of 16% to $88.5 million, and net profit after tax declines of almost 86% to $2.8 million.

Perhaps most worrying for shareholders was the sudden deterioration of its balance sheet. This time last year the company was looking incredibly healthy with just $1.1 million of debt and $103 million cash in the bank.

Fast forward 12 months to today and the company now has $240 million of debt and a cash balance of $37 million. Quite a contrast to a year previous.

It really has been a quarter to forget for the company with a lot of disappointing numbers being revealed. Its Tropicana joint venture in Kalgoorlie with AngloGold Ashanti saw gold production come in 7% lower than expected.

Disappointingly, the guidance ahead for Tropicana wasn’t great either, with management expecting all-in sustaining costs to increase. This is due to higher than expected cash costs during the transitional period between the end of grade streaming and the completion of the processing plant expansion project.

Year-to-date, the all-in sustaining costs have been at a reasonable $874/oz, whereas now management is guiding as high as $950/oz for FY 2016.

Despite the steep decline today, the share price is still up almost 16% in 2016. But at 64x estimated FY 2016 earnings and with a growing burden of debt, I would not be surprised to see the share price sink lower in the next few months.

If I were looking for exposure to gold, I would opt for Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX: NCM) which I feel is superior on many levels. But ultimately commodity prices are incredibly unpredictable, which makes an investment in the sector a high risk one.

Those looking for better investments would be best to avoid these miners and concentrate on companies like these, which I believe could provide share price gains in the future with only a fraction of the risk of Independence Group or BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP).

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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