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Like the guy in those annoying cell phone commercials, I have frequently felt like a broken record over the past several years. Can you Lihir me now?
You see, even near the worst levels of a gut-wrenching correction in precious metals back in 2008 that led scores of investors to believe the gold run was over, I sat right here at this keyboard tapping out every combination of words I could muster to convey my conviction that this long-term bull market for gold still has at least a $2,000 price target firmly in its sights.
Nearly 18 months have passed since I declared an end to that corrective phase well before that end was visible in U.S. dollar terms. A strong counter-cyclical rally in the U.S. dollar caused the gold recovery to reveal itself first in a set of foreign currencies like the Australian dollar. When I singled out Australia-listed gold producer Lihir Gold (Nasdaq: LIHR ) as lagging an abrupt 30% surge in gold (as denominated in Australian dollars), the stock traded beneath $14 per share on the Nasdaq. After Thursday's massive surge brought the total appreciation in Lihir's shares to over 150% since that time, I ask again: Can you Lihir me now?
Lihir has politely refused a friendly takeover bid from leading Australian gold miner Newcrest Mining, arguing rather convincingly that the roughly $8.5 billion cash-and-stock offer from Newcrest undervalues the company's internal growth potential. On the heels of a strategic takeover of its own that added mines in Australia's Queensland state and the West African republic Cote d'Ivoire, and an impressive 31% surge in estimated resources to 43 million ounces of gold at the flagship Lihir Island mine, I agree that Lihir's shares had not adequately reflected those achievements.
On the other hand, Lihir's statement of refusal was quick to point out the attractiveness of a pairing between these two gold portfolios. Both miners are active in Papua New Guinea and Australia, and the addition of Indonesia to the combined portfolio would build a solid global force in the industry with some 72 million ounces in gold reserves and a production profile approaching 3 million ounces per year. For comparison, consider that quality intermediate miners Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) and Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM ) each produce only about 1 million ounces per year. The combined company would more closely resemble a miner like Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) in terms of scale of production, though I don't believe it would enjoy anywhere near Goldcorp's incredible growth potential.
If Newcrest and Lihir can come to terms that Lihir considers more favorable to existing shareholders, then the elite club of gold's megaminers could be bound to admit a new member. I don't think that titans like Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) or Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) will be looking over their shoulders, but it would be a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, shareholders are enjoying a powerful revaluation of shares that provides a warm welcome to incoming CEO Graeme Hunt. If Hunt can Lihir me now, I hope he's hunting for a higher bid.