Barrick Gold in talks with partners in China and Saudi Arabia on copper assets
By Ian BickisIndustry Mining & Resources
TORONTO – Barrick Gold Corp. says it’s in talks with partners in China and Saudi Arabia on potential deals involving its copper assets as it looks ahead to its acquisition of Randgold Resources and an increased focus on African gold mines.
Company chairman John Thornton said on an earnings conference call Thursday that there is strong interest in its copper assets as the metal remains strategic.
“Both our partners in Saudi Arabia and our partners in China, this is of high, high interest to them, and so we’re engaged with both of them, what you might call sort of slow-motion, long-term conversations about how to maximize the value of those things to them and to us.”
Thornton said Barrick would always be involved with copper since it often runs alongside gold in deposits, but that the company is considering how best to create financial and strategic advantages from the assets going forward.
Talks with Saudi Arabia continue as the country has been shunned at a major investment conference it’s hosting this week.
Numerous key international figures cancelled plans to attend the Future Investment Initiative after Turkey accused the Saudi regime of killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who had written critically of it.
Barrick had not planned to attend the event because it conflicted with quarterly earnings and board meetings in Toronto, said spokesman Andy Lloyd.
The company, which reports in U.S. dollars, showed a $412 million net loss for the third quarter, well below the $99 million in net income expected by analysts, after taking a $405 million impairment charge at a Peruvian mine.
Adjusted net earnings for the quarter ending Sept. 30, however, amounted to $89 million or eight cents per share, above the $62.7 million or five cents per share expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.
The writedown at its Lagunas Norte mine in Peru came after results from a study on a type of ore treatment led it to shelving the treatment option.
Third quarter revenue totalled $1.84 billion, in line with analyst expectations, but down from the $2 billion it pulled in for the same quarter last year.
Revenues are expected to increase markedly if a proposed acquisition of Africa-focused Randgold Resources goes ahead.
The takeover, valued at about C$7.9 billion when it was announced Sept. 24, is set to be put to a vote of shareholders on Nov. 5.
Proxy advisory firms Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. both recommended this week that shareholders vote in favour of the deal.
The acquisition of Randgold would significantly increase Barrick’s gold focus on Africa, after the Toronto-based company spun out its Tanzania gold mines into Acacia Mining in 2010.
The deal has created speculation that Barrick might look to take back control of London-listed Acacia, in which it still owns a 64 per cent stake.
Kevin Thomson, Barrick’s senior executive vice president of strategic matters, declined to comment on the call about the potential future of Acacia, which has been embroiled in an extended taxation and export dispute with the Tanzanian government.
“We can’t comment on what may or may not happen with Acacia down the road, what we can tell you is we have had no discussions with Acacia about a potential going-private transaction.”
Thomson also declined to provide any details on the ongoing negotiations with the Tanzanian government, which Barrick has been leading on behalf of Acacia.
“Discussions are ongoing, we had a team in Tanzania last week. The discussions have slowed down, but they are ongoing and we continue to be optimistic that we will get to the right place.”
Last year, Tanzania issued a US$190 billion tax bill against Acacia and restricted its exports. The dispute has escalated in recent weeks after the government’s anti-corruption bureau arrested and charged Acacia employees, including a senior country manager.
Barrick’s shares lost 41 cents or 2.4 per cent at $16.62 in early afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.