Barrick Gold eyes deals with rewritten M&A playbook – by John Tilak (Reuters Canada – December 22, 2017)

TORONTO (Reuters) – Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO is actively reviewing acquisitions and in the past 18 months considered at least one transformational deal, as it seeks to boost looming production declines and drive growth, four people familiar with the company’s thinking told Reuters.

It marks a shift for Barrick, which has focused on selling assets to reduce debt in recent years, and signals a possible return to familiar territory as the world’s largest gold producer warms back up to dealmaking.

A series of asset sales, including a 50-percent stake in Argentine gold mine Veladero to Shandong Gold Mining Co Ltd 600547.SS for $960 million earlier this year, has helped put Barrick on a stronger footing and top its debt reduction target this year.

Toronto-based Barrick, whose gold production has declined every year from 2012 to 2016, has historically been acquisitive but has spent recent years focused on debt reduction. It has drawn ire in the past, like many in the sector, from investors who want mining companies to take a more prudent approach to investing and growth.

That is just what Barrick is hoping to do as it charts a course to selectively scour the mining world for assets and companies. Since the 2013 selloff in commodity prices, mining portfolio managers have been speaking out against companies about overspending, investments in risky growth and high levels of debt.

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