Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk bids the company farewell
Barrick Gold's Chairman and Founder Peter Munk addresses shareholders at the mining company's announcement of their first quarter results in Toronto on Wednesday April 24, 2013 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014 8:06AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 30, 2014 3:40PM EDT
TORONTO -- Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk bid an emotional farewell to the company's (TSX:ABX) annual meeting of shareholders, after more than 30 years as the chairman.
Munk said his commitment to Barrick was never determined by his title or the location of his office.
"So all those things are not what makes me so much tied to Barrick and, therefore, that tie, that commitment, that desire to help and that emotional involvement will remain I think until I die," he said.
"You can take, maybe, Munk out of Barrick, (but) you can't take Barrick out of Munk."
Munk says he felt it was the right time to step down after spending decades building the company from a lone mine in Northern Ontario into the world's largest gold producer. He said an extraordinary team is in place to take over.
He praised chief executive Jamie Sokalsky and incoming chairman John Thornton.
"This team has got what it takes. Whether it is ingenuity, whether it is switching tracks, whether it is creating new opportunities, this team is a team I would bet on," he said.
"Success, overcoming difficulties, is in these people's DNA. Every one of them ... that is why this team is going to make it and that is why I am so very confident that Barrick's future is going to be as glorious, as exciting and probably more stimulating and rewarding to shareholders as the first 30 years have been when I was fortunate enough to be chairman."
Barrick chief executive Jamie Sokalsky described the 86-year-old Munk a mentor and a exemplary example of a leader.
"Peter, it has been one heck of a ride," Sokalsky said.
The annual meeting came as Barrick reported a first-quarter profit of US$88 million, or eight cents per share, compared with US$847 million, or 85 cents per share, a year ago.
Barrick said it was impacted by such items as foreign currency translation losses and the ramp down of the Pascua-Lama mining project on the border of Chile and Argentina in the quarter.
Revenue was down at US$2.6 billion compared with US$3.4 billion in the first three months of 2013.
Sokalsky says last year was one of transformation for the gold miner.
But he told the company's annual meeting that Barrick (TSX:ABX) has emerged leaner, stronger and more financially flexible.
Excluding one-time items including unrealized foreign currency translation losses, costs related to the ramp-down at Pascua-Lama and realized and unrealized gains on non-hedge derivative instruments, the company earned an adjusted profit for the quarter of $238 million or 20 cents per share. That compared with an adjusted profit of $923 million or 92 cents per share a year ago due to lower metal prices and lower gold sales volumes.
The gold miner, which has taken billions in impairment charges over the last two years, has struggled in recent years and its stock trades for less than half of what it did less than two years ago.
Barrick was forced to stop work at its Pascua-Lama project in South America last year after massive cost overruns and a court ruling that put construction on hold until Barrick completes work to protect the water systems as part of its environmental commitments.
In recent months, Barrick has shed what it deemed non-core operations and worked to reduce its debt. It has sold several smaller mines in Australia, a minority stake in a mine in Nevada as well as a portion of its stake in African Barrick Gold, and raised nearly $3 billion in an stock offering that was used to repay debt.
The company also revamped its board and its executive compensation process after shareholders turned down an advisory vote on Barrick's approach to executive pay at its annual meeting last year.
Earlier this week, merger talks between Barrick and Newmont Mining Corp. collapsed and turned into a spat over who was to blame.
Both companies blamed the other for the failure to come to an merger agreement between two of the world's largest gold producers.
A merger has long been speculated because he would allow the gold miners to combine their operations in Nevada and save millions in overhead, supply contracts and staffing.