(Recasts with conference call, stock move)
By Nicole Mordant
Jan 27 (Reuters) - Pummeled by falling oil and copper prices, Freeport-McMoRan Inc said on Tuesday it is abandoning its debt reduction target, bringing in partners to help fund two oil projects and slashing its capital spend and costs by $2 billion in 2015.
For now, the U.S.-based miner and oil and gas company has kept its dividend intact but hinted that could change depending on the direction of copper and oil prices, which are down 23 percent and 57 percent respectively in the last seven months.
“Our expectation is the board is going to take steps to preserve our liquidity as we go forward,” Freeport Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said on a conference call.
But he added: “We all want to keep the dividend and we’re going to work hard to try to do it.”
Earlier Freeport, which has copper mines in the Americas, Africa and Indonesia and oil and gas assets in the United States, reported a bigger-than-expected fall in fourth-quarter earnings. Its shares fell 5 percent.
Freeport has been trying to reduce its debt, which ballooned in 2013 after it acquired two oil and gas companies and stood at $19 billion at end-December. It had previously set a debt target of $12 billion by the end of 2016.
Adkerson said that “under these commodity prices those targets are unrealistic” although debt reduction remained a priority.
Sales of non-core assets have also been on the table as a way to cut debt. Adkerson’s list of core assets - defined as those with significant undeveloped resources - did not include its two New Mexico copper mines, Chino and Tyrone, which he described as “older” on the conference call.
Phoenix-based Freeport also said it is in talks to raise $900 million of capex for its Holstein and Heidelberg deepwater oil projects in the Gulf of Mexico through joint ventures with investors who would take equity stakes in the projects.
Overall, Freeport pegged 2015 capital expenditure at about $6 billion, down about $1.2 billion from 2014, mainly due to a 34 percent cut in oil and gas spending.
It booked net charges of $3.1 billion in the fourth quarter, related chiefly to goodwill impairment on its oil and gas assets, leading to a net loss of $2.85 billion, or $2.75 per share.
Excluding one-time items, fourth-quarter earnings were 25 cents a share, below the 35 cents a share that analysts were expecting. (Additional reporting by Darshana Sankararaman in Bengaluru and Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Meredith Mazzilli and Gunna Dickson)