Will There Be More Merger Action in the World’s Gold Fields?

January 14, 2019 by Paul Ausick

Monday’s announced merger between Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) and Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG) emphasized the quality of the merged company’s reserves, the pipeline of projects available and high exploration in some of the world’s best gold-mining districts. The announcement also noted that the merged firm will offer the highest annual dividend ($0.56 annually) among senior gold miners.

Gold reached its highest price ever just seven years ago. At around $1,900 an ounce, the yellow metal’s price had been driven up by demand for a safe haven during the financial crisis. Then, as the global economy (or at least the global financial system) began to recover, the price of gold dipped to around $1,550 in June of 2012 before rising to near $1,800 again in September. Since then, it has posted a low of under $1,100 in late 2015 and climbed back to nearly $1,300 recently.

After last September’s $6 billion deal between Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: GOLD) and Randgold Resources, there didn’t seem to be a chance for another deal of that size for some time. Now that Newmont and Goldcorp have now pulled the trigger on an even bigger deal, we thought it might be a good time to see if more such deals are likely.

Newmont is making a longer-term bet than many other companies can afford. Cost synergies of the Goldcorp deal are said to be about $100 million annually, not particularly sparkling for a company that will have revenues of around $10 billion annually. Newmont appears willing to wait out soft demand for the yellow metal and bet that prices will rise over a longer timeline than smaller miners can afford to be patient for. For the past three years, gold prices have remained in a narrow range of between $1,200 and $1,300, and barring some major reason for investors to shift into gold, a short-term hike in gold prices is unlikely.

Senior miners that might be interested either in a merger like the one announced this morning make up a pretty short list: Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX) and Franco-Nevada Corp. (NYSE: FNV), with market caps of around $17 billion and $13 billion, respectively, and Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. (NYSE: AEM), with a market cap of around $9.3 billion, as potential acquirers.

Freeport is an unlikely acquirer given the focus on its Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia and Franco-Nevada is a royalty streaming firm that last year invested in oil production royalties in Oklahoma. That leaves Agnico Eagle with cash and short-term investments valued at around $610 million and long-term debt of $1.72 billion as of September. Agnico Eagle’s forward price/earnings ratio is 61.38, high enough to give investors second thoughts if the company were to take on a big acquisition.

Which companies might be the best targets? Here are some possibilities.

Kinross Gold Corp. (NYSE: KGC) has a market cap of $3.99 billion and traded early Monday afternoon at $3.19, in a 52-week range of $2.38 to $4.78. Shares have lost about 28% in the past 12 months, and the forward P/E ratio is 26.65. Kinross is based in Canada and has assets in Canada, the United States, Russia, Brazil, Chile, Ghana and Mauritania.

Yamana Gold Inc. (NYSE: AUY) has a market cap of $2.34 billion and traded at $2.56 this afternoon, in a 52-week range of $2.00 to $3.80. Shares have dropped about 27% in the past 12 months and the forward P/E ratio is 12.95. Yamana is based in Canada and has assets in Canada, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

Iamgold Corp. (NYSE: IAG) has a market cap of $1.72 billion and traded at $3.70 in a range of $2.75 to $6.52. Shares have dropped nearly 40% over the past 12 months, and the forward P/E ratio is 26.39. The company is based in Canada and has assets in South America, Africa and Canada.

Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMY) has a market cap of around $993 million and traded this afternoon at $1.83, in a 52-week range of $1.43 to $2.53. Shares are up about 4% for the past 12 months, and the company posted an operating loss of nearly $2.5 million in the June quarter. The company is based in South Africa and owns assets in South Africa and Papua New Guinea.

The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA: GDX) traded down about 0.4% Monday, at $21.00 in a 52-week range of $17.28 to $24.86. Shares are down nearly 14% over the past 12 months. Major holdings include Newmont, Barrick and Franco-Nevada.

The VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA: GDXJ) traded up less than 1% Monday afternoon, at $30.73 in a 52-week range of $25.91 to $36.08. The shares are down 13.5% over the past 12 months. Major holdings are AngloGold Ashanti, Kinross and Yamana.

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