Australia’s gold miners drive M&A revival – by James Regan (Reuters U.S. – May 26, 2015)

SYDNEY – May 26 Gold miners are spearheading a wave of merger and acquisition activity in Australia, riding a rebound in local gold prices to pounce on projects promising quick growth.

In the first signs of life since the country’s mining boom went bust three years ago, companies are buying assets from international rivals tightening their belts, and partnering with fellow Australian miners.

“Everyone is looking for assets that enable them to grow. We’ve seen more M&A in Australia in 2015 than in the past five years,” Ian Murray, chairman of Perth-based Gold Road Resources Ltd told Reuters, referring broadly to the level of interest in the sector.

Progressive central bank interest rate cuts aimed at knocking down the Australian dollar and falling labour and mining costs are adding fuel to the frenzy.

Gold output in the world’s second-biggest producing country after China reached a decade high last year and is tipped to rise further in 2015.

Evolution Mining, snapped up Barrick Gold’s Cowal mine on Monday for $550 million, giving it a large low-cost mine and putting it ahead of Northern Star Resources to be the no. 2 Australia-listed gold miner.

A bidding war for the mine attracted 17 different parties, two sources familiar with the process said.

U.S-dollar gold prices are down 37 percent since a late 2011 peak, but Australian dollar gold hit a two-year high in February and is still up 10 percent since early October.

“The confluence of big overseas miners looking to repatriate to their home bases and strong indicators such as a weaker Aussie dollar is driving the market further into M&A activity,” said Gavin Wendt, an analyst with MineLife consultants.

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