Barrick Gold looking to cut debt to $7 billion as industry cuts costs

TORONTO – Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) wants to drop its debt to about $7 billion, down about $3.5 billion from where it stands today.

“Our current debt level is higher than we would like it to be and we are intent on reducing it,” Barrick co-president Kelvin Dushnisky told a conference call with analysts Thursday.

“We will look to repay debt from improved cash flow. In addition we will use proceeds from any future asset sales to lower our debt levels.”

Barrick has sold several of what it considered non-core mines in recent months as it has pared down its portfolio and focused on its five key mines — Cortez and Goldstrike in Nevada, Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, Lagunas Norte in Peru and Veladero in Argentina.

Barrick chief financial officer Ammar Al-Joundi said the company is looking at all of its options to reduce its debt, including the continued sale of assets and partnerships.

“We know that is quite a distance, but we have a lot of opportunities to get there,” he said.

Barrick and other gold miners have slashed costs in an effort to remain profitable as the price of gold has tumbled over the last two years.

The December gold futures contract fell $26.30 to US$1,198.60 on Thursday, down from its peak of more than $1,800 in September 2011.

Barrick stock closed down 59 cents or about four per cent at $13.75 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Barrick reported Wednesday it earned US$125 million or 11 cents per share in its latest quarter, down from US$172 million or 17 cents in the comparable prior-year period, while revenue slipped to US$2.6 billion from just under $3 billion.

The company also cut its all-in sustaining cost guidance to $880 to $920 per ounce, down from $900 to $940, while it narrowed its production guidance to 6.1 million to 6.4 million ounces of gold compared with earlier expectations of six million to 6.5 million ounces.

A similar focus-on-costs refrain was heard from Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G), which said Thursday that while its production will come in at the low end of its guidance, costs are better than expected.

President and chief executive Chuck Jeannes said that due to lower-than-expected production at its El Sauzal mine in Mexico the company expects to be at the low end of the 2.95 million-to-3.1 million ounce range.

However, Jeannes also said the company said it has been able to do better than expected on the cost side.

“This performance is expected to help drive all-in sustaining costs toward the low end of our guided range of between $950 and $1,000 per ounce for the year,” he said.

“With new project capital spending beginning to wind down, Goldcorp remains well-positioned for sustained growth in free cash flow in 2015 and beyond.”

Goldcorp, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, reported it lost US$44 million or five cents per share in its latest quarter compared with a profit of $5 million or a penny per share a year ago.

Revenue totalled $1.09 billion, down from $1.16 billion in the same quarter last year.

Goldcorp shares dropped $3.20 or 13 per cent to $20.84 on the TSX.

Excluding unrealized losses from the foreign exchange translation of deferred income tax assets and liabilities as well as derivatives and the El Sauzal writedown, Goldcorp reported an adjusted profit of $70 million or nine cents per share, compared with an adjusted profit of $190 million or 23 cents per share a year ago.

The company said the results were hurt by a writedown of the value of low-grade stockpiles at its Penasquito mine that took $36 million or four cents off its bottom line.

During the quarter, Goldcorp produced 651,700 ounces of gold, up from 637,100 ounces a year ago.

Goldcorp is one of Canada’s largest gold miners with operations in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Central and South America.