A Big Purchase Might Be Ahead for Goldcorp

The possible restart of merger talks between Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining could spur the sale of Newmont's African mines.

Vladimir Zernov
Vladimir Zernov
Jul 24, 2014 at 10:42AM
Energy, Materials, and Utilities

Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) was quiet following its unsuccessful bid for Osisko Mining. The gold giant lost the battle for the Canadian Malartic mine to Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM) and Yamana Gold (NYSE:AUY) and has not been active on the purchase front since then.

However, the strength of Goldcorp's balance sheet in combination with relatively low prices for gold assets means that more activity could come. A recent report by Bloomberg stated that Goldcorp is interested in buying African gold mines from Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), while the latter is in merger talks with Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD). Now, Goldcorp could try again.

The opportunity to buy Newmont's mines could soon present itself
In a surprising move, Barrick Gold announced the departure of its CEO from Sept. 15, which could mean a shift from the company's current strategy. Failed merger talks with Newmont Mining could be restarted. Any form of a merger between Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining would include a spinoff company and asset sales, so Goldcorp would be in a good position to resume the hunt for Newmont's African mines.

The race for Osisko Mining has shown that Goldcorp was ready to raise its bid for what it considered a compelling investment. That's important because Newmont's Ahafo and Akyem, which are both situated in Ghana, won't come cheap. Importantly, they are Newmont's lowest cost mines. All-in sustaining costs at these mines are expected to be between $690 per ounce and $755 per ounce in 2014.

Ahafo and Akyem are performing well, so why sell them? Newmont Mining is feeling pressure from its shareholders to do something that creates value. In fact, a merger with Barrick Gold and a breakup of the company were among possible options, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In this light, shareholders could favor a sale of African assets if the price is right.

Indonesia could play its role, too
The possible purchase of Newmont's African assets would certainly boost Goldcorp's portfolio. With just $1.5 billion of debt at the end of the first quarter (compare this to Barrick's $13 billion and Newmont's $6.15 billion), Goldcorp could easily afford more leverage. The company has been cautious in building its portfolio and now is reaping the benefits of this strategy. Goldcorp does not have mines outside of the Americas, so stepping into Africa would be a new milestone for the company.

What's more, Goldcorp must be feeling pressure to acquire new assets in the current price environment. Apart from low prices and a possible Newmont/Barrick merger, Goldcorp could benefit from Newmont's troubles in Indonesia. Newmont Mining's decision to file for international arbitration regarding copper export restrictions has already backfired at the company. The Indonesian government stated that it would transfer Newmont's Batu Hijau mine to a government-owned firm if Newmont does not restart production at the mine. Should this happen, Newmont could feel more pressure to limit itself to assets in safer jurisdictions, which could spur the sale of African assets.

Bottom line
Newmont's African mines or not, Goldcorp must be hunting for high-quality assets. Low gold prices won't last forever, and the time is limited to acquire mines at reasonable prices. The possible restart of merger talks between Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining will be a major catalyst for the sale of Newmont's African mines. However, I would not be surprised if Goldcorp tries to buy major assets elsewhere this year.