Mergers in gold sector heat up despite challenges from COVID-19

May 13, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt life around the world, investors have sought safety in gold, leading to an uptick in mergers and acquisitions in the gold sector, including SSR Mining’s acquisition of Alacer Gold for $1.7 billion.

Consolidation in the sector has continued despite the inability to meet face-to-face. In addition to the SSR Mining and Alacer deal, Gran Colombia Gold submitted a proposal to buy Guyana Goldfields and TMAC Resources said China’s Shandong Gold will buy it in a deal valued at about $149 million.

Accoring to Bloomberg, this activity is in contrast to broader M&A activity across the globe, where almost $16 billion of mergers, acquisitions and investments have been terminated over the past 30 days.

Spot gold prices have climbed more than 12 percent so far this year. That follows an 18 percent gain last year, on broader global growth fears, which had helped drive a series of deals in the last six months.

“From a COVID-19 perspective, I think we’ve all adjusted,” Rodney ‘Rod’ Antal, chief executive officer of Colorado-based Alacer Gold Corp., told analysts Monday following news of a tie-up with Vancouver-based SSR Mining. “We haven’t missed a beat.”

SSR had been looking at potential opportunities for five years, CEO Paul Benson told analysts, and he and Antal were able to meet face-to-face before lockdowns. They continued negotiations from afar as the virus spread. “It hasn’t actually impacted this deal; we’ve done everything remotely,” he said.

The $1.7 billion all-stock deal is a zero-premium merger of equals that will offer increased liquidity and scale for investors, according to the companies. It comes at a good time with heightened interest in gold driving prices higher, Benson said.

Tie ups between smaller miners are accelerating after 2019 marked a bumper year for gold deals, which kicked off with a $10 billion mega-merger between then Newmont and Goldcorp. The trend picked up steam in the second half of last year as mid-tier and junior miners played catch-up.

A number of companies, including Newcrest, added individual mines while others — including Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. and Zijin Mining Group Co. — acquired smaller rivals.

Newcrest, Australia’s top gold producer, said it plans to raise as much as A$1.1 billion ($720 million) in a share sale to accelerate its growth pipeline and extend its cash flow exposure to a key mine in Ecuador. The company agreed to pay $460 million to buy a gold financing package for Lundin Gold Inc.’s Fruta del Norte mine and will also use the funds to push ahead with projects in Canada and Australia.



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