Barrick open to sell-offs and joint ventures in debt drive – by James Wilson (Financial Times – April 5, 2015)

Barrick Gold is open to a wide range of asset sales and joint ventures as it tries to cut debt by $3bn and rebuild its reputation with investors, its chairman has told the Financial Times.

In his first interview since taking over as chairman almost 12 months ago, John Thornton, pictured below, said he could imagine Barrick ceding operational control of some assets — for example to Mick Davis, the former Xstrata chief executive who plans to re-enter the mining sector at the head of a private equity vehicle.

Barrick would also bring long-term investors into a group of its mines as minority partners, Mr Thornton said.

“There is a lot of incoming inquiries . . . of all kinds of stripes and sizes. We feel confident about hitting the $3bn number,” he said.

Mr Thornton’s comments show the range of options being considered to turn round Barrick, still the world’s largest gold miner by volume but one of the worst-performing large miners of the past two years. Barrick, which has a $13bn market capitalisation, has been hit by steep falls in the price of the precious metal and has suffered billions of dollars of writedowns since 2012 on poor acquisitions and stalled projects.

But Mr Thornton said there were no plans to try to revive a merger with Newmont Mining, its US rival, after talks failed a year ago.

Mr Thornton, a former Goldman Sachs banker, said that Barrick was confident of meeting its target to cut $3bn this year from its net debt of more than $10bn.

Sales of two gold mines, Cowal in Australia and Porgera in Papua New Guinea, were well advanced, Mr Thornton said, although those sales would only meet part of the $3bn target.

People aware of Barrick’s plans also told the FT this month that the miner would be open to selling Zaldivar, a copper mine in Chile.

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