Gold miners tightening the belt in 2013

COST-cutting and restraint is what we’ll see this year from the world’s gold miners as they try to narrow the gap between the high gold price and lagging share prices, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Gold miners tightening the belt in 2013 Gold miners tightening the belt in 2013 Gold miners tightening the belt in 2013 Gold miners tightening the belt in 2013 Gold miners tightening the belt in 2013

The firm released its 2013 Global Gold Price Report, which found that 60% of gold executives planned to cut costs this year.

The report was based on a survey of senior executives from 40 gold companies, which included the majors, Barrick Gold, Newmont Mining and Goldcorp, as well as Australian mid-tiers Regis Resources, Kingsgate Consolidated and OceanaGold Corporation.

Last year saw Barrick, Newmont and Kinross Gold makes changes at the top as pressure mounted on gold miners over the disconnect between share prices and an all-time high gold price.

The report found that the average 2012 gold price was 91% up on 2008, while share prices of the world's top 10 gold producers only rose by 15% over the same period, while share prices among the mid-tier miners jumped by 127%.

PwC Australia Energy, Utilities and Mining leader Jock O'Callaghan said signs were emerging that the issue was now being addressed.

"It does appear that gold equities reached their breaking point over the past year, with shareholders punishing the sector," he said.

"This resulted in some high-profile changes among senior executive ranks and a new focus on the bottom line at the world's biggest gold miners."

The focus was evident at the Denver Gold Forum last year, where industry leaders stressed more disciplined approaches.

"The industry is keen to let the world know it has heard shareholder demands and is now making amends," O'Callaghan said.

"We expect restrained capital investment, increased dividends and much more focus on cost efficiency."

All of the majors surveyed planned to pay dividends, while 28% of juniors were hoping to do so.

"Companies that will emerge stronger are those that can build strong relationships with their investors, boost dividend payments and show they can invest responsibly in production growth - all on the back of a stronger gold price," O'Callaghan said.

Around 80% of senior gold miners ruled out plans to seek new funding this year and only 20% were considering boosting capital investment.

Among juniors and mid-tiers, 61% planned to seek debt funding for projects, 36% were planning equity raisings and 11% were banking on offtake agreements or streaming deals.

When it comes to merger and acquisition activity, O'Callaghan expected China to again be a major participant after being responsible for four of the top 20 largest gold deals last year.

"Two things are ensuring China retains an appetite for M&A," he said.

"First, their existing mines have a low remaining life.

"Secondly, the Chinese Central Bank has increased its gold holdings, which means it can be expected to support state-owned groups acquiring gold assets.

"Over the course of the past year there were 97 deals worth $US1.67 billion in which Australians were buyers and 84 worth $3.2 billion in which Australians were targeted.

"We also expect consolidation will continue but the emphasis executives are placing on major acquisition activity has diminished."

Meanwhile, 39% of respondents expected cash costs to rise this year, while 33% thought costs would drop.

Wage inflation was cited by more than half of respondents as the key drivers for cost increases.

A whopping 95% flagged improvements to productivity.

Unsurprisingly, gold executives were bullish on price, with 88% expecting a rise and no one flagging a decline.

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