Barrick's Thornton has no plans to sell Pascua Lama, African Barrick
Barrick Gold (ABX) confirms Peter Munk will step down from its board at the 2014 annual meeting, expected around April, and co-chairman John Thornton will become sole chairman at that time.
Thornton tells WSJ that ABX will focus on establishing long-term relationships with Chinese partners but has no current plans to sell its Pascua Lama project or its majority stake in African Barrick Gold (ABGLF, ABGLY), two sources of trouble for the miner in recent years.
Thornton also says ABX would consider increasing its exposure to copper and silver over time, depending on the price of those metals, dampening rumors that the company wants to sell out of its copper projects.
Barrick in talks on further asset sales, but no spinoffs
More on Barrick Gold (ABX +1.4%) at the Denver Gold Forum: Jamie Sokalsky says the miner is in talks on further asset sales, especially mines that are relatively high cost, have shorter mine lives and limited opportunity to expand through exploration; some of its remaining assets in Australia fit that profile, the CEO says. (earlier)
Though some analysts have suggested ABX should spin off assets instead of selling them into a tough market, Sokalsky says more spinoffs are not on the agenda, due to tax considerations and administrative requirements.
On African Barrick (ABGLF.PK, ABGLY.PK), Sokalsky says he is focused on improving operations there and not on a quick sale, and that ABX does not have a timetable for selling its stake.
Barrick Gold (ABX +0.5%) plans to cut regional managers and move oversight of operations to its head office, in a restructuring designed to make mines more accountable for controlling costs and increasing cash flow, FT reports.
Gold miners around the world are cutting costs and rethinking expansion plans as falling gold prices this year have made many mines unprofitable; ABX already has cut one-third of head office staff, cut $2B from its capital budget for this year, sold mines in Australia and will look at further sales or closures as it focuses on its largest, lowest-cost mines.
As ABX retrenches, talk of divesting its 74% stake in African Barrick (ABGLF.PK, ABGLY.PK) is coming up again; CEO Brad Gordon says the company could be independent in 12-18 months if ABX seeks a sale, but "they are not sellers at the current price."
Gold miners will "struggle to make ends meet," Citi says
Even as gold mining stocks are poised for a third straight year of losses, Citi analysts say it could get worse, with companies likely to "struggle to make ends meet" after failing to pass on benefits from the past four years’ heyday in gold to shareholders.
Citi recommends investors play it safe with companies that can adapt to a lower gold-price environment, such as Buy-rated ABX and Medusa Mining (MDSMF.PK); it tags Sell ratings on Harmony Gold (HMY), African Barrick (ABGLF.PK) and Polymetal (POYYF.OB).
Barrick Gold's (ABX -1.8%) African Barrick subsidiary is sued in a U.K. court by a group of Tanzanian villagers who allege the miner was complicit in the killing of six locals by police over the last three years as they looked for gold at or around the North Mara mine.
The news comes as ABX looks to sell its controlling 74% stake in African Barrick amid a declining gold price and high debt burden.
Nomura thinks gold prices have reached a near-term equilibrium, making it a good time to try for a bounce in gold mining stocks (GDX). As a result, its analysts upgrade Randgold (GOLD -6%) to Neutral from Reduce, African Barrick to Buy from Reduce, and Polymetal to Buy from Neutral. But the firm doesn't expect the good times to last, as it sees sellers dominating again by Q4 and sending gold prices down.
As cheaper gold makes South African mines unprofitable to operate, Goldman Sachs slaps Sell ratings on AngloGold (AU -1.2%) and Sibanye (SBGL -5.1%) due to their high exposure to the country. The firm also thinks attempts to reduce costs by reducing labor or closing mines could be met with strikes or government interference. Goldman's best rating - Neutral - is saved for Randgold (GOLD -0.2%).
Gold miners (GDX) have been smacked by plunging gold prices, but Citigroup and HSBC think they have further to fall. Citi worries about AngloGold (AU) because negative free cash flow would hit its "already stretched balance sheet," but Harmony Gold (HMY) has the balance sheet to weather similar problems; Gold Fields (GFI) is its sector favorite. HSBC cuts GFI, Agnico Eagle (AEM) and many others.
"The next fad is going to be the unbundling of the majors," says Randgold Resources (GOLD) CEO Mark Bristow, as the spend-happy gold miners now look to shed assets. Some hope for an unbundling of value similar to that of the oil majors spinning off their refinery and other assets. Keep an eye on John Paulson's efforts to break-up AngloGold (AU). GDX -19.3% YTD.
African Barrick Gold (ABGLF.PK) plummets 21% in London after parent company Barrick Gold (ABX) ends talks to sell the unit, in which it owns 74%, to state-owned China National Gold. Barrick Gold "will only proceed with opportunities that generate acceptable value," CEO Jamie Sokalsky said. African Barrick, which is worth $1.4B, will now conduct a review of its operations in order to improve returns. (PR)