Gold Fields swung to a profit last year due to higher gold prices and told investors it was embarking on a growth phase, warning it may spend more cash than it generated this year.

Gold Fields has investments to make in SA at its South Deep mine, at its Damang mine in Ghana and projects in Australia and South America.

It has turned its focus to the future after a period of disposing of a number of prospects as it gave full attention to generating cash from the mines it had and reducing debt.

"However, for us to grow and sustain cash flow, investing is necessary. While we may spend more cash than we may generate in 2017, depending on, inter alia, gold price and exchange rate, we are taking a longer-term view to growing our cash flow in the future," the company said.

"Importantly, we are ensuring that we only embark on investments and capital expenditure with excellent potential for paybacks and returns and which will continue to drive down our costs," it said.

Gold Fields will spend $617m on its existing mines in sustaining capital this year and a further $252m on its growth projects.

Gold Fields declared a final dividend per share of 60c (SA), bringing the total return to shareholders to 110c last year.

It posted net profit for the year to end-December of $163m compared with a net loss of $242m the year before. It reported $191m of normalised earnings versus normalised losses of $45m before.

Exploration and project costs shot up 70% during last year to $92m as it stepped up work at the Salares Norte prospect in Chile.

Gold output for the year fell to 2.146-million ounces compared with 2.159-million ounces the year before, with all-in costs falling to $1,006/oz from $1,026/oz.

Production this year is forecast to be between 2.1-million and 2.15-million ounces at an all-in cost of up to $1,190/oz, reflecting the increased level of spending on growth projects during the year.

"Gold Fields plans to embark on a year of reinvestment in 2017 with the focus on new growth and development projects, and to target both sustaining and growing free cash flow," the company said.

Expenditure on growth at South Deep will increase to $20m this year from $8m last year.

Gold Fields will spend $120m at Damang to strip away waste rock and expose fresh ore. It will spend $112m on the development of the Gruyere project in Australia and a further $78m to complete the purchase of its stake in the project.

At Salares Norte, exploration expenditure will rise to $64m towards the completion of a prefeasibility study in the second half of the year ahead of a bankable feasibility study into developing a mine there.

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