Barrick Gold’s Failed Merger Attempt With Newmont Mining Might Not Be Over

Barrick Gold didn’t complete its merger with Newmont Mining, but is this the final say on this merger?

May 12, 2014 at 9:34AM

Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) and Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) weren't able to reach an agreement on a merger. Here are a couple of reasons why Barrick Gold is likely to keep pushing this merger. Let's start by seeing what went wrong. 

No deal
According to Barrick's press release, Newmont Mining opted out of this merger mainly due to disagreement on the location of the merged company's headquarters.

Newmont Mining is based in Denver, CO, while Barrick's headquarters are in Toronto, Canada. Considering Barrick's effective tax rate is expected to reach 50% in 2014 while Newmont Mining's will only be 35% (the reduced tax burden is partly due to different tax policies in each country), it does seem more prudent to keep the headquarters in the U.S (at least for tax purposes).

None of the reasons for the merger failing were related to valuation. Despite the failure, both companies (and especially Barrick) would benefit if the merger went through. Let's see how. 

Risk remains high
One the main problems Barrick faces is its high debt burden, which keeps increasing its financial risk. Barrick's debt-to-equity ratio reached 0.95 by the end of the first quarter of 2014. In comparison, Goldcorp's (NYSE:GG) debt-to-equity was only 0.12. This means that Barrick's burden of debt is much higher than Goldcorp's. Newmont Mining is in the middle of the pack with a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.67. 

Barrick tried to reduce its debt burden by selling assets such as its Yilgarn South assets in Western Australia back in October 2013 for $300 million. The company also raised nearly $3 billion in capital. These measures weren't enough to put a dent in its $13 billion of debt or improve its total equity, however. This merger, on the other hand, could reduce Barrick's debt burden and ease its financial risk to allow it to raise debt at better terms.

Due to the high debt load and the ongoing low precious metals prices, Barrick's gold production has fallen in the past year and is expected to further fall in 2014. 

Reduced production
Barrick's 2014 outlook shows a reduction in its gold production by 10%-16% year over year to between 6 million and 6.5 million ounces. Goldcorp on the other hand expects to increase its gold production by 13%-18% in 2014.

Barrick's reduced gold production is partly due to assets the company sold in the past year. Moreover, for 2014, the company has slashed its capital expenditure budget in half to an average of $2.55 billion. Basically, the company's lack of funds is forcing it to cut its production.

Newmont Mining is in a similar situation. The company expects its gold production to reach an average of 4.75 million ounces -- a nearly 6% drop from 2013. 

What's next?
Despite the merger failure, some analysts remain optimistic that Barrick and Newmont Mining will eventually reach one. These companies will be able to accomplish more as a unit in terms of raising capital, debt, or both. They will also be able to reduce their general and administration expenses. Moreover, both companies could bring down their all-in sustaining costs by focusing on higher grade deposits. 

If Barrick and Newmont Mining eventually merge, this move could benefit investors of both companies. Looking forward, the main uncertainty in such a transaction will be the valuation of each company; this could determine the amount of shares investors of each company will receive. This issue, however, will resurface once these companies come closer to an agreement.

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