PRECIOUS METALS

Beaver Creek forum hears Oz companies could expand gold asset search

A panel discussion on the opening day of the Beaver Creek Precious Metals Summit in Colorado has pointed to Australian companies as agents of industry consolidation.

Kristie Batten in Beaver Creek, Colorado
 Australian offshore gold M&A activity likely to extend to development assets soon. Image: iStock/Mike Kiev

Australian offshore gold M&A activity likely to extend to development assets soon. Image: iStock/Mike Kiev

Sprott's Dr Neil Adshead said premium-priced Australian producers should drive consolidation.

"The quality of the average gold asset in Australia is not that great on a global scale - but they're fantastic operators," he said. "I don't really see any great development assets left in Australia. They have to go overseas."

That's already happening with Northern Star Resources acquiring Pogo in Alaska, Newcrest Mining buying 70% of Red Chris in British Columbia, and St Barbara taking over Canada's Atlantic Gold.

Adshead noted that no Australian companies had bought development assets - yet.

"I think we're going to see more of it," he said.

More broadly, the jury was out on large-scale consolidation.

"The big four have become the big two and one of those we call a merger of egos," JP Morgan Asset Management portfolio manager Neil Gregson said.

Gregson said the sector was watching to see how those deals have worked out, but that could take years.

"Only then will we know if they were practical and logical moves," he said.

Echoing comments made by Gold Fields boss Nick Holland last week in Perth, Gregson said M&A might not be the answer.

"It generally compounds the problems of the bigger guys in filling their pipelines," he said.

The panel, which was moderated by Numis Securities' Jonathan Guy, agreed that becoming the next Barrick Gold shouldn't be the aim for gold companies.

Gregson said 1-2 million ounces per annum of gold production could be the "sweet spot", exemplified by companies such as Agnico Eagle Mines.

"It's hard to look past Kirkland Lake Gold," he said.

While no predictions on gold price were made, the panel agreed the "dangerous euphoric time of the cycle" was still ahead.

 

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