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Barrick ahead in risk management game, says Fitch

A Fitch report that suggests the world’s second biggest gold miner went through a lot of unnecessary heartache, and mountains of shareholder dough, by not consummating an earlier marriage with Africa specialist Randgold Resources, also indicates the ‘Mark Bristow factor’ now separates Barrick Gold Corp from other miners with Africa exposure.
Barrick ahead in risk management game, says Fitch Barrick ahead in risk management game, says Fitch Barrick ahead in risk management game, says Fitch Barrick ahead in risk management game, says Fitch Barrick ahead in risk management game, says Fitch

Fitch Solutions sees CEO Mark Bristow being the difference as Barrick Gold takes a new look at Africa

The ratings agency and researcher said this week Barrick was stronger after the merger with Africa-focused Randgold, despite adding Africa risk back into its asset portfolio.

Barrick, of course, found a way out of Africa with its creation of African Barrick Gold, which became Acacia Mining, the offshoot it's now keen to reclaim. That expensive process, which dissolved somehow into hostilities between the parent and its subsidiary, continues to wind its way painfully to an end point.

But Fitch says having a boss who's led a company through multiple mine development phases in difficult jurisdictions will help Barrick to future success.

About 28% of Barrick's production now comes from Africa, compared with 7% before the US$18 billion Randgold merger. The latter had two tier-one mines in Africa, Loulo-Gounkoto in Mali, and Kibali in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The acquisition of Randgold will be a major boon for the newly formed Barrick in the coming years. While Barrick has the scale, Randgold had a track record of succeeding in more difficult jurisdictions," Fitch said.

Former Randgold boss Bristow took control at Barrick of an "abundance of projects" across the globe that could maintain its status as a gold sector leader.

Fitch said Barrick had already made progress to resolve longstanding issues in Tanzania, where the government alleged Acacia owed about US$190 billion in back taxes. Barrick has reached a draft agreement with the Tanzania government, leaving the disgruntled Acacia out of the accord.

"With Bristow as the new CEO, a deal on the dispute is plausible in the coming quarters, if Barrick is successful in buying Acacia's minority owners," said the agency.

Bristow said last month officials in Tanzania would not engage with Acacia in any way, which prompted its no-premium bid at 197p per share for minority Acacia holdings. Acacia, for its part, maintains it is worth at least 271p per share. The takeover deadline is July 19.

Meanwhile, Fitch says a glut of non-core asset divestments by Barrick and Newmont Goldcorp could lead to discounted sales.

Barrick has set its focus on large, long-life and low-cost assets above 500,000oz/y, with a minimum mine life of 10 years, in the bottom half of the global cost curve. Kibali and Loulo-Gounkoto, and Goldstrike, Cortez and Turquoise Ridge, part of the Nevada joint venture (JV) with Newmont Goldcorp, and Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, are the standouts in its portfolio.

Goldrush, which also forms part of the Newmont Goldcorp JV, is seen as a potential tier-one asset.

Fitch cautioned the promised synergies related to the Randgold merger and the Nevada JV couldn't be seen as a given.

But improving gold prices would obviously lift profit margins and support growth. "We forecast gold to average $1,300/oz in 2019 and $1,350/oz in 2020," Fitch said.

Barrick shares (NYSE:GOLD) are up 25% since the merger, adding 22% in June alone on the back of gold's rally north of US$1,400/oz. Barrick shares achieved a new 12-month high on Thursday at $16.68 on significant volume, giving it a market capitalisation of $29.5 billion.