Barrick reports solid earnings, highlights copper value

By Ngaire McDiarmidReporter / May 06, 2021 / www.mining-journal.com / Article Link

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Bristow saw Barrick's copper portfolio as a source of differentiation to the company's gold industry peers, with revenue from its copper mines up 31% due to higher prices.

Copper has twice breached US$10,000 per tonne in the past week, for the first time since early 2011.

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"Based on the current spot pricing, copper is expected to represent at least 20% of our gold-equivalent ounces sold from 2021 to 2025, up from the 16% contribution in 2020 based on actual realised prices," Bristow told analysts on a conference call.

He believed there was more consolidation required, particularly in the gold industry, but said a lot of high-quality assets were embedded in individual companies.

He said one needed the support of fund managers and investors to do value-creating M&A, "otherwise it's a better option to continue to explore".

Bristow said Barrick had demonstrated it understood the copper business, proving it could operate both high-grade complex underground mines like Jabal Sayid and low-grade super pits like Lumwana.

"And again, I think with some of the geopolitical developments in South America, you're going to see a pivot to some of the other copper-endowed geologies of the world," he said.

"We've got that interest in and knowledge in the Pakistan region, which is highly prospective, although, again, a challenging address.

"And now with the work that we've done in the Central copper belt, we're much more comfortable about continuing to explore and invest in that part of the world."

He also said Barrick had "a joint venture in the making" with Ma'aden in the Arabian Shield and was working with the Egypt on its latest bid round as well.

"So we'll continue to find our own gold and gold-copper opportunities," he said.

Adjusted EPS ahead of consensus

Barrick's adjusted net earnings per share of 29c and EBITDA of $1.8 billion were ahead of consensus of 27c and $1.6 billion, and compared with Jefferies' estimates of 30c and $1.5 billion.

Barrick's free cash flow increased 74% year-on-year to $763 million, which compared to Jefferies' estimate of $821 million.

"Management has done a very good job strengthening the company's balance sheet and ended the quarter with a net cash position of $519 million," analyst Christopher LaFemina said.

The miner produced 1.1 million ounces of gold and 93 million pounds of copper in the quarter, both below the previous quarter's 1.2Moz and 119Mlb respectively, however Barrick said it was well-positioned to achieve annual guidance with production expected to be higher in the second half.

Bristow also reiterated Porgera in Papua New Guinea - shuttered a year ago when the joint venture was denied a special mining lease renewal - could restart by the end of this year "if all goes well". 

"What a wild past 12 months it has been," he told analysts on the call, one year on from the company's first all-virtual results presentation as the first wave of COVID-19 swept around the globe.

Shareholders approved a $750 million capital return programme.

"Combined with the regular quarterly dividend of 9c/share, this capital return is helpful and commendable, and implies an annualised yield of 3.6%," LaFemina said.

"We prefer mining equities with exposure to commodities, such as copper, that are leveraged to a recovering global economy and, unlike gold, would benefit from an environment of a steepening yield curve."

He reiterated a hold rating and put a price target at $21, compared with Barrick's New York close of $22.25 yesterday which valued it about $39 billion.

Canaccord Genuity meanwhile reiterated a buy rating and its C$35 target price.

Barrick closed at $27.30 in Toronto.