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Gold mining CEOs told to fix slump as investors prove restless

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Published : December 12th, 2012
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Category : GoldWire

 

 

 

 

By Thomas Biesheuvel
Bloomberg News
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-12/gold-ceos-told-to-fix-slump-as-...

Gold-mine investors are losing patience with management in the $60 billion industry as their shares head for the first back-to-back annual slump since 1998, even as the metal completes a dozen years of gains.

Producers from Canada's Barrick Gold Corp., the world's biggest, to Newmont Mining Corp. of the United States are failing to control expenses. The average cost to extract an ounce of gold by the largest miners jumped 23 percent to $584.70 in 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show. In contrast, silver production costs fell 12 percent to the lowest since 2007, the data show.

Money managers including billionaire investor George Soros reacted by boosting stakes in physical gold, pushing gold-mine executives to resign, or shifting into silver. Direct holdings of the metal reached a record 2,629.3 metric tons Dec. 10, valued at $145 billion, after more than tripling in five years, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

"Investors are very critical, voting with their feet and pushing management teams to resign," said John Wong, a portfolio manager at CQS Group's New City Investment Managers, who increased his silver holdings. "You can tell from the way investors sold Barrick down that they are on short fuses."


Barrick replaced Chief Executive Officer Aaron Regent with Chief Financial Officer Jamie Sokalsky on June 6, saying it was "disappointed" in the share performance after costs rose and production dropped. Since then the stock lost another 19 percent as the company missed earnings for four straight quarters amid delays and cost overruns at its Pascua-Lama project on the mountainous Argentina-Chile border.

At least five more gold CEOs lost their jobs this year.

Silver producers comprise three of the five biggest holdings in Wong's $94 million Golden Prospect Precious Metals Ltd., led by Silver Wheaton Corp. In 2010 four of the funds' five largest holdings were gold producers.

The NYSE Arca Gold BUGS (HUI) Index of gold mining companies has declined 24 percent in the past two years compared with a 4.4 percent gain in the MSCI World Index. The performance is a result of an "appalling track record of value destruction" by management teams, according to Evy Hambro, manager of BlackRock's $12 billion World Mining Fund.

Hambro's biggest holding is Rio Tinto Group, which produces gold only as a byproduct from copper mining.

Gold producers make up six of the eight worst performers in the S&P Global Resources index this year, with IAMGOLD Corp., Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd., and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. posting the biggest declines.

The Arca benchmark gold index fell about 12 percent this year compared with a 9 percent gain in gold's price. The Bloomberg World Mining Index is little changed, while key materials such as iron ore and thermal coal dropped 11 percent and 16 percent respectively. Copper has gained 6.7 percent.

Gold companies also face competition from gold-backed exchange-traded products, or ETPs, as investors bet on bullion without the operational risks from mining.

Billionaire Soros boosted his stake in exchange-traded products backed by gold in the third quarter. Soros Fund Management increased its investment in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest fund focused on the metal, by 49 percent to 1.32 million shares as of Sept. 30 from three months earlier, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing showed.

"We are at a watershed where the message from shareholders is very loud and clear: 'We do not like what you do,'" said Markus Bachmann, Johannesburg-based manager of the Craton Capital Precious Metal Fund. "The costs are too high. The returns are not good enough."

To be sure, producers with good management and operations may be set to benefit from slowing cost inflation and rising gold prices, investors say. Gold may advance to $1,850 an ounce next year, according to the median forecast of 24 analysts, while cost inflation of 19 percent in the past 12 months may ease as the mining industry curtails expansion in response to faltering Chinese demand.

"There are signs that the cost inflation is contained, which will help the companies," said Bachmann. "By and large we will see a healthier industry next year."

 

 

Data and Statistics for these countries : Argentina | Canada | Chile | All
Gold and Silver Prices for these countries : Argentina | Canada | Chile | All
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