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Feb 12, 2020

Barrick Gold CEO expects to beat US$1.5-billion asset-sale target

Barrick Gold CEO Sees Potential for Net-Zero Debt by End of the Year

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Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s second-largest producer of the metal, will exceed its target of selling US$1.5 billion in assets by the end of this year, Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow said.

“We’re going to beat it,” Bristow said Wednesday in an interview following the release of the miner’s fourth-quarter earnings. “We still have some work to tidy up the portfolio.” The company has roughly US$450 million in sales to go to reach the US$1.5-billion mark, but expects to sell more than that this year, he said.

The Toronto-based company had announced the initial asset-sales target in the wake of its US$5.4-billion acquisition of Randgold Resources Ltd. last year. Barrick sold a number of assets in 2019 including a 50-per-cent stake in its Kalgoorlie mine in Western Australia.

The sales have forced Barrick to narrow its five-year annual production range to 4.8 million to 5.2 million ounces. “This is our base plan and of course there are upsides that we’re working on.” In November, Barrick had said it expected to maintain its five-year gold production within a range of 5.1 million to 5.6 million ounces, based on its portfolio at the time.

The company plans to release 10-year production guidance at its annual general meeting later this year, Bristow said. Barrick is thinking about what the company should look like long-term, including its mix between copper and gold production.

In December, Bristow said Barrick may some day look into a possible merger with Freeport-McMoRan Inc., the largest publicly traded copper producer. On Wednesday, Bristow said that idea is still at a conceptual stage, but could include anything from a merger to the acquisition of Freeport assets. “Copper is the most strategic metal,” Bristow said.

On Wednesday, the company boosted its quarterly dividend by 40 per cent as it reported adjusted earnings of 17 cents US a share for the fourth quarter, beating the highest analyst estimate.

Barrick is benefiting from rising bullion prices, reporting fourth-quarter revenue of US$2.88 billion that also topped analysts’ estimate. Spot gold averaged about US$1,483 an ounce in the fourth quarter, 21 per cent more than a year earlier, and the metal has extended gains this year as the coronavirus weighs on expectations for economic growth.