"Equinox might have been…one of the five worst acquisitions in [mining] history"

Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) executive chairman John Thornton outlined plans for the gold miner's copper assets, growth and increasing partnerships with China in a wide-ranging "town hall" meeting last week.

Staff reporter
Barrick executive chairman John Thornton

Barrick executive chairman John Thornton

"In the 21st century, there's no leading company in any industry in any part of the world that can afford not to have a distinctive relationship with China," Thornton said.

He said step one was Barrick's Veladero 50/50 joint venture with Shandong Gold and step two was underway, with Shandong evaluating the Argentinian side of Pascua-Lama to see whether Veladero could be extended. 

Thornton said Barrick was looking to grow in an "economically attractive way" and acknowledged Barrick and the industry had a "lousy recent history" of buying companies.

"The acquisition of Equinox might have been if not the worst, one of the five worst acquisitions in [mining] history," he said.

"My message today is you can be sure that we will be just as disciplined on acquisitions as we were on divestments."

Bernstein analyst Christopher LaFemina last week dropped Barrick's buy rating to hold, warning of a growing risk of "value-destructive M&A".

Thornton made it clear Barrick would not acquire Detour Gold, as speculated, because it did not fit the company's criteria (of 500,000 ounces, 10-plus year mine and on the better half of the cost curve).   

He reiterated Barrick's plans to divest assets that were neither non-core or strategic, including Hemlo, Lagunas and its 50% stake in Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines.

"We are constantly assessing ‘what do we think of those assets which are neither tier one nor strategic, and when we will get rid of them?'" he said. 

However he said Barrick was less likely to sell its copper assets and become a pure gold company, because gold had short-lived assets and very few tier-one assets.

He said it was more likely Barrick would partner with a Chinese company to build the copper assets into a "first-tier global copper company over time".

"They're very long-term in orientation, they need it, they're already buying up copper, so it makes all kinds of sense," he said.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the farming sector, brought to you by the Kondinin team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the farming sector, brought to you by the Kondinin team.


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