Barrick Gold CEO to shareholders: 'I feel your disappointment'
The August gold contract gained US$3.80 to US$1,223 an ounce and the September copper contract dipped a penny at US$2.69 a pound..
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2013 8:18AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 24, 2013 12:07PM EDT
TORONTO, Ontario -- Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) plans to cut at least US$500 million from spending on major projects this year, may sell non-core assets and will remained focused on doing a better job for its shareholders, the company said Wednesday.
Chief executive Jamie Sokalsky told the company's annual meeting of shareholders that Barrick is determined to be disciplined and focus on producing returns for investors.
"This has been a tough year for Barrick and our shareholders. It seems as if our company has been under siege by several disappointments and setbacks," Sokalsky told shareholders.
"I feel your disappointment, and I give you my commitment that we will do everything we can to ensure Barrick remains a strong and prosperous company, and improve our share price."
The company has seen its stock drop more than 40 per cent of its value since the start of the year.
Shareholders expressed their disapproval Wednesday by turning down an advisory vote on Barrick's approach to executive compensation at the meeting.
A group of institutional investors led by Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec had expressed concern over an $11.9-million signing bonus awarded by Barrick to co-chairman John Thornton.
Thornton, who had been a Barrick director, was appointed co-chairman in June 2012 at the same time that Sokalsky was promoted from chief financial officer to replace Aaron Regent.
Sokalsky said earlier in a statement that Barrick is committed to a disciplined approach to how it spends its money on its projects.
"While we remain positive on the long-term fundamentals for gold and copper, we don't rely on higher metal prices to be the only driver of shareholder returns," Sokalsky said.
Since the first quarter ended on March 31, gold prices have dropped even further. Gold futures prices have fallen dramatically recently, including a $140 one-day drop on April 15. Although futures have recovered from recent lows, they are still down -- with June futures at US$1,423.20 on Wednesday.
In addition to the general problems with gold prices, Barrick faces some company-specific troubles including institutional investor unhappiness with the compensation paid to its vice-chairman as well as the uncertainty surrounding the future of one of its biggest mining operations, in South America.
Barrick had US$923 million or 92 cents per share of adjusted earnings in the first quarter, down from US$1.1 billion or $1.10 per share in the comparable period last year but better than analyst estimates.
Net income before adjustments, reported in U.S. currency, was $847 million or 85 cents per share, down from $1.04 billion or $1.04 per share in the first quarter of 2012.
Those results beat the consensus estimate of 85 cents per share or $852 million of adjusted earnings and 81 cents per share or $865 million of net income.
Barrick said the main reason for the lower profit was lower gold and copper prices and reduced volumes sold during the quarter and that it's making a number of changes to cut spending.
Capital spending will be reduced to between $5.2 billion and $5.7 billion -- down from the previous budget of $5.7 billion to $6.3 billion.
Barrick is also reducing exploration spending to a range of between $300 million and $340 million, which is $100 million lower than before.
The gold miner is also evaluating the impact of a regulatory decision that's affecting its Pascua-Lama mine, which straddles the border of Chile and Argentina.
Work on Pascua-Lama project was suspended by the appeals court in the northern Chilean city of Copiapo amid environmental concerns about the construction of the world's highest-altitude gold and silver mine.
The start date for the mine, which straddles the Andean border with Argentina, has already been delayed by more than six months to the second half of 2014. Cost overruns have seen the price tag rise from $3 billion to more than $8 billion.
Barrick has said it will work to address environmental and other regulatory requirements on the project in Chile, while construction will continue on the portion of the project in Argentina.