Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD) recently announced that it is offering 163.5 million common shares of the company at a price of $18.35 per share. Barrick explained that it wants to reduce debt with the help of $2.9 billion of proceeds that the company would receive when share offering is completed. This move, which leads to a 16% share dilution, raised worries if other big miners would follow Barrick.
Newmont Mining must find a solution for its Conga project
Just like Barrick, Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) has several problems. Newmont's biggest project, Conga, is stalled due to opposition from locals. The company stated that it cut its capital spend on this Peruvian project. Newmont plans to spend as much as it needs to build social acceptance for Conga, but no more than that.
Barrick's Pascua-Lama shares the same fate. Barrick decided to cut all activities on the mine except for building the water management system, which would allow the company to proceed with the project. Both miners are going to wait until gold prices go up, when they would feel free to spend some money on growth.
However, Newmont is pressed to find a solution for its Conga project. Its other Peruvian mine, Yanacocha, has little reserves left. At the end of 2012, Newmont stated that there were 3 million attributable ounces of gold in Yanacocha. In the third quarter of this year, Newmont received 132,000 ounces of gold. This means that there is less than six years of gold production left at the mine. Conga is a substitute for the old Yanacocha, so Newmont will have to find a way to get things going.
Easy debt schedule
While Barrick amassed $14.5 billion of debt, Newmont had $6 billion of debt on its balance sheet at the end of the third quarter. It's still a high number, but it doesn't put Newmont in an uncomfortable position. When asked during the earnings call whether the company plans to issue more shares, Newmont's CEO stated that the company has no plan to issue additional debt or equity.
Importantly, Newmont has an easy debt schedule. The company has to pay $544 million in 2014, and then $486 million in 2017. At the end of the third quarter, Newmont had $1.5 billion of cash. As the company continues to reduce its capital spending, it would have enough money to service its liabilities without issuing new debt or shares.
Among big miners, Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) is in the easiest situation. Goldcorp did not accumulate debt like Newmont and Barrick. A strong balance sheet is the main reason why Goldcorp outperforms peers of its size this year. The company's upcoming project, Cerro Negro in Argentina, was delayed for just half a year. First gold from Cerro Negro is expected in mid-2014. Goldcorp's solid position means you should not expect share dilution in the foreseeable future.
What are the chances that Newmont will issue additional stock? I don't think it is a plausible scenario. Newmont has managed to lower its all-in costs to $993 per ounce. This is an important milestone for the company, as it previously struggled from relatively high costs of production.
Newmont started production at its Akyem mine in Ghana. The mine is expected to produce between 350,000 and 450,000 ounces of gold in the first five years of production. This is a major achievement given the problems that Newmont encounters in its Conga project. The difficulties in the Conga project also mean that Newmont will not need additional capital for it.
All in all, I don't expect that Newmont or Goldcorp will follow Barrick's example. And this is good news for shareholders.