August 1, 2008
While I understand the difficulties that companies face from rising costs, my fingers can't help but grow weary from typing that very phrase: rising costs.
While the responsible investor can't escape the topic -- as few companies are immune -- one company has provided a welcome respite from the litany of complaints. Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) delivered golden earnings for the second quarter, with net profit rising 22% to $485 million. Revenue reached the $2 billion mark on gold sales of 1.86 million ounces.
The average realized gold price was $894 per ounce, 43% higher than a year earlier. While mining costs rose 23% to $417 per ounce, the result came in below the $440 reported by fellow gold giant Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) .
In the first optimistic comment about rising costs that I've encountered to date, Barrick CEO Peter Munk had this to say in the earnings release: "There has been a lot of focus on rising costs in the gold industry, but perhaps we sometimes forget that these rising energy costs and inflationary expectations are one of the reasons for the move in the gold price above $900 per ounce that we are currently enjoying."
He's right, of course. The same inflation that imperils many companies with relentlessly shrinking margins is precisely that which drives the price of gold higher. Over time, the market helps takes care of pushing the gold price up to reflect the cost of mining the metal.
Interestingly, Barrick raised $150 million in capital by selling gold royalties on 77 properties to a company that specializes in such assets: Royal Gold (Nasdaq: RGLD ) . In the broader context, I believe major miners like Barrick, BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP ) , and Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP ) will likely convert cash flow to acquisitions in an effort to replenish reserves for the long haul.