Barrick Deepens Cutbacks as Metal Meltdown Erodes Earnings – by Danielle Bochove (Bloomberg News – August 5, 2015)

Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s largest producer of the metal, is intensifying efforts to strengthen its balance sheet as slumping metal prices squeeze margins.

The Toronto-based miner cut dividends, lowered its output forecast and is preparing to sell more U.S. assets as it targets $2 billion expenditures cutbacks by 2016, according to its second-quarter earnings report distributed after the close of trading Wednesday.

Barrick reported adjusted earnings that missed analysts’ estimates as previous measures to trim expenses and streamline operations failed to offset the price slide. Shares rose 1.6 percent at 9:30 a.m. in Toronto.

“We remain focused on improving productivity and driving down costs to ensure we can continue to generate free cash flow in the current gold price environment,” Barrick wrote.

Gold miners are battling to lower costs and debt levels after prices slumped to five-year lows as dollar gains and the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates reduce demand for alternative investments as an inflation hedge. Barrick has lost 38 percent in the past month, the most among major gold stocks, as its U.S. mines bear the full brunt of the price slump, while mines elsewhere get some relief from weaker local currencies.

Net losses narrowed to $9 million, or 1 cent a share, in the second quarter, from $269 million, or 23 cents, a year ago. Earnings excluding one-time items were 5 cents a share, trailing the 6-cent average of 21 analysts tracked by Bloomberg. Sales fell to $2.23 billion from $2.46 billion, compared with a $2.25 billion average estimate.

Nimbler Company

Chairman John Thornton has led a strategy to make Barrick a nimbler company more focused on its core gold operations. A former president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., he joined Barrick as co-chairman in 2012 and fully replaced founder Peter Munk in April 2014.

The company has sold $2.45 billion in assets so far this year. In May, it sold a 50 percent stake in its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea to Zijin Mining Group Co. for $298 million.

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