Why Barrick’s Shadow Spreads Over Newmont and Gold Giants

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When one of the top gold miners, or the top gold miner in the world, has bad news it tends to impact the chain all the way down. That is what the gold sector is feeling after Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX) reported earnings. While Barrick reported a first-quarter profit on Monday, compared with a reported loss a year ago, some gold bugs might have gotten excited.

Barrick’s results were helped out by an impairment charge reversal tied to the Cerro Casale gold and copper project in Chile, and that was after recently selling 25% of the stake. It is the word about production forecasts that has investors quite concerned.

Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) might have seen a much warmer reception to its results, but the Barrick shadow extends just a bit further in the gold world than Newmont’s shadow.

Barrick’s net earnings in the first quarter came to $679 million, or $0.58 in earnings per share. That compares with a loss in the same period a year ago of $83 million, for a seven-cent loss per share. Revenue was $1.99 billion, its operating cash flow was $495 million and its free cash flow was $161 million, while the total debt was reduced by $178 million. Barrick said that it intends to further reduce its debt as follows:

We intend to reduce our total debt from $7.9 billion at the start of 2017, to $5 billion by the end of 2018-half of which we are targeting this year. We will achieve this by using cash flow from operations, further portfolio optimization, and the creation of new joint ventures and partnerships… Barrick had a consolidated cash balance of approximately $2.3 billion. The Company now has less than $100 million in debt due before 2019.

Barrick showed that its gold production in the first quarter was 1.31 million ounces, at a cost of $833 per ounce for an all-in sustaining cost of $772 per ounce. This compares to 1.28 million ounces at a cost of sales of $810 per ounce and all-in sustaining costs of $706 per ounce a year earlier.

Where things went awry was in Barrick’s full-year gold production for 2017: now expected to be 5.3 million to 5.6 million ounces. The previous forecast range was 5.6 million to 5.9 million ounces. Barrick’s release noted:

Approximately two-thirds of this reduction is attributable to the anticipated sale of 50 percent of Veladero. Cost of sales and all-in sustaining cost guidance for the full year remains unchanged… A comprehensive plan to strengthen and improve the Veladero mine’s operating systems is now under review by federal and provincial authorities in Argentina. Our adjusted guidance assumes normal leaching activities will resume in June, pending government approval and the lifting of judicial restrictions.

The lower production forecast of Barrick may seem explainable, but it has taken away more than $2 billion stated value from Barrick’s market capitalization. Barrick shares were last seen down 10.3% at $17.08, with a $20.2 billion market cap and a 52-week trading range of $13.81 to $23.47.

When Newmont reported earnings, it showed that its all-in sustaining costs were about $900 per ounce, but this was shown to be favorable to guidance. Its attributable gold production was up 9% to 1.23 million ounces. Newmont cut its net debt to $1.7 billion and exited the quarter with $2.9 billion cash on hand.

Newmont also showed its annual production targets. Its own outlook for 2017 remains 4.9 million to 5.4 million ounces (with production at Merian and Long Canyon more than offsetting declines at Twin Creeks and Yanacocha). Newmont’s production guidance for 2018 and longer-term guidance improves to a range of 4.7 million and 5.2 million. All in, the guidance was unchanged in North America, South America and Australia — with improved production guidance in Africa.

Newmont shares were last seen down 3% at $32.70, with a $17.4 billion market cap. Newmont shares have a 52-week range of $30.19 to $46.07. Gary Goldberg, president and chief executive officer of Newmont, said of the quarter:

We generated strong financial results this quarter and approved plans to invest in profitable growth in Ghana and a prospective gold district in the Yukon. We increased free cash flow by more than $320 million and adjusted EBITDA by 20 percent to $566 million compared to the prior year quarter. Our teams in Australia and South America overcame significant weather events safely and efficiently and we remain well on track to meet our 2017 outlook. Permits, funding and resources are in place to build the Subika Underground mine – which will produce 1.8 million ounces of gold over an 11-year mine life, and access ore grades that are three times higher than our surface mines – and the Ahafo Mill Expansion. Our cost and capital discipline, combined with our industry-leading balance sheet, gives us the means to continue self-funding projects, growing margins and improving the quality and life of our Reserves, with a goal to deliver sustainable value for our shareholders.

Again, the gold fallout was nearly universal in the key gold mining and gold players.

Silver Wheaton Corp. (NYSE: SLW), which is now gold and silver, was down 4.3% at $20.07 on Tuesday afternoon. Its 52-week range is $16.94 to $31.35, and its market cap is now $9 billion.

Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG) was down 3.7% at $14.28, and its market cap is $12.4 billion. Goldcorp has a 52-week range of $11.91 to $20.38.

Randgold Resources Ltd. (NASDAQ: GOLD) was holding up a tad better than most gold peers. Its shares were down only 2.2% to $86.62, with an $8.2 billion market cap. Its 52-week range is $67.54 to $126.55.

Royal Gold Inc. (NASDAQ: RGLD), which buys royalties, streams and interests rather than acts as the miner itself, was down 3.3% at $70.06. Royal Gold’s market cap is $4.57 billion, and its 52-week range is $51.76 to $87.74.