Jiangxi Copper, the mainland's largest integrated copper producer, said profit for the first quarter rose 46.4 per cent because of increased output and rising copper prices. Net profit for the first three months of the year rose to 1.26 billion yuan (HK$1.41 billion), from 858.7 million yuan last year, the Jiangxi-based company said in a statement. Turnover increased 49.3 per cent to 11.89 billion yuan. The earnings growth was roughly in line with a Goldman Sachs forecast for a 49 per cent rise. Goldman Sachs analysts Song Shen and David Pow said before Jiangxi Copper's announcement that its first-quarter results would highlight a reduced smelting loss and earnings growth from its sulphuric acid business. They also said in a report yesterday that Jiangxi Copper would benefit from rising copper prices amid a supply deficit. For every 1 per cent increase in the copper price, earnings could rise 1.3 per cent this year. The recent strike by workers in Chile, which threatens to disrupt supplies at a time of falling global inventories, would be a key positive for copper prices and Jiangxi Copper, they said. Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, yesterday said three of four mining divisions had been idled by a six-day strike as union leaders representing employees of the company's contractors began talks with the government. Goldman sees a 27,000 tonne copper deficit this year. The investment bank also expects copper prices will rise an average 12 per cent to US$3.63 a pound this year and hit US$3.75 next year, from US$3.05 last year. As the current spot market copper price is about US$3.92 a pound, Goldman said that would have 'upside risk' to its forecast for this year. Jiangxi Copper last month reported lower than expected earnings for last year of 4.15 billion yuan, down 13 per cent from 2006. The company blamed lower processing fees, higher costs and its dependence on other firms for its copper concentrate.