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Katusa says stand by for more trans-Pacific M&A

American fund manager and market commentator Marin Katusa says 2019 “will be a memorable year for” Australian gold companies who he maintains are set to “use their elevated share prices and fat bank accounts to prey on the underperforming North American market”. Katusa indicated recent deals were just the start of a bigger trend. “Now is the time to go shopping,” he said on the weekend.
Katusa says stand by for more trans-Pacific M&A Katusa says stand by for more trans-Pacific M&A Katusa says stand by for more trans-Pacific M&A Katusa says stand by for more trans-Pacific M&A Katusa says stand by for more trans-Pacific M&A

Marin Katusa: Oz gold companies poised to lead bigger M&A surge

Staff reporter

"One of the biggest stories in the resource sector this year is how well Australian gold stocks have performed," Katusa said.

"They've absolutely crushed their peers in the western hemisphere.

"While the gold market has been lousy in North America, in Australia things are much brighter.

"And this will lead to what I call the Commonwealth Takeover."

Katusa's "Commonwealth Takeover", a term that will make a few Aussie gold leaders cringe, has Australian-listed companies taking out more of their Canadian-listed North American peers. He says the cash positions and valuations of Australian gold miners are the highest they've been in 5 years.

"The Australian producers went from being much cheaper than their North American peers in 2014 to now more expensive," he said.

Australian gold major Newcrest Mining (NCM:ASX) would produce about 2.4 million ounces in 2018 and generate more than C$450 of free cash flow per ounce of production. Newcrest also had more than C$1.2 billion cash sitting in the bank.

"That type of free cash flow makes North American gold executives blush,"  Katusa said.

"On a free cash flow per ounce produced basis, there isn't a North American listed senior gold producer who can compete with that type of profit margin."

What type of assets were Australian gold companies looking for?

Katusa believes "there's something for everyone" on offer.

"There's short term arbitrage available to nimble Australian producers who want to pick up cheap North American producers," he said.

"An openpit gold mine in Canada is going to have similar production costs and similar currency fluctuations. Many quality gold assets in North American companies are trading at discounts to what they're worth in Australia.

"The times have changed.

"In 2015, NewMarket Gold was brilliant in scooping up Crocodile Gold which was an Australian gold producer [Katusa Research bought just under 10% of NewMarket at the time].

"Shortly after, Kirkland Lake swept in and took over Newmarket Gold and netted Katusa Research's first 1,000% gain. Kirkland Lake then went on to be the best performing North American gold producer.

"The Australians are taking one out of the Canadians' play book now. And that's leveraging high valuations into partnerships with North America's largest producers.

"I could see some of the big Australian names go this route, likely merging with Goldcorp or Newmont. It's an opportunity to build a company with outstanding operations in all safe corners of the globe.

"All while monetising a higher NAV.

"Newcrest or Evolution Mining are not going to waste time and money buying up 50,000oz producers.

"I'd argue there's two or three mines in North America which are for sale. And a small handful of others that could be acquired if they got creative with a third-party.

"It's important to remember that we are deep in the trenches and the North American resource markets are very tough right now.

"But quality assets are being eyed by those in predator mode."