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Moody's lifts 'negative' outlook on Barrick, says progress made on debt load

TORONTO – The Moody’s Investors Service says it has lifted a “negative outlook” on Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) and taken a neutral view of the company’s credit and debt situation.

It says Barrick’s credit metrics have improved “markedly” with adjusted debt down to US$9.2 billion as of June 30, from US$13.2 billion at the end of 2014.

Moody’s adds that Barrick’s US$2.4 billion in cash and US$4 billion of credit as of June 30 give it “significant flexibility to manoeuvre through gold price volatility.”

It also expects Barrick will meet its objective of reducing its debt load by a total of US$2 billion this year, having achieved US$968 million of that already.

As a result, Moody’s has revised its rating outlook for the Toronto-based mining company to stable, from negative.

While Barrick’s rating remains at relatively low Baa3, Moody’s said it could be upgraded slightly if the company articulates its strategy beyond the current focus on selling non-core assets and reducing debt.

Barrick has been downsizing since suffering a number of setbacks, notably court and regulatory rulings against the Pascua-Lama mine on the border of Chile and Argentina.

By the time construction was halted on Pascua-Lama in 2014, its estimated cost had risen to US$8.5 billion from an original estimate of between US$2.8 billion and US$3 billion.

At the same time, the price of gold was trending downward from an all-time high of just over $1,890 per ounce in August 2011. Gold recently returned above $1,300 an ounce but spent weeks below US$1,100 at times since late 2014.