Gold miners take huge writedowns

Shares of beleaguered Canadian gold producers Barrick and Kinross advanced Thursday even though each company took multi-billion-dollar writedowns and reported huge net losses.
Shares of beleaguered Canadian gold producers Barrick and Kinross advanced Thursday even though each company took multi-billion-dollar writedowns and reported huge net losses.
Barrick Gold 3-month TSX trading chart

Barrick Gold took a $4.2 billion US after-tax writedown on the value of its copper business when it reported its  fourth-quarter results. That writedown left the mining giant with a $3.06 billion net loss for the quarter. But excluding that one-time writedown, the company reported an adjusted net profit and revenue that topped analysts' expectations.

Kinross Gold, meanwhile, took a $3.2 billion impairment charge when it reported its quarterly results. Most of that was due to a writedown on the value of its Tasiast mine in Mauritania. Kinross acquired the mine in 2010 when it bought Red Back Mining for $7.1 billion.

Kinross reported a net loss of $3 billion in the fourth quarter.  But like Barrick, Kinross also beat the street when it came to adjusted earnings and revenue.    

"Our planning and outlook for 2013 reflects our continued focus on cost control, margin improvement and free cash flow," said Kinross CEO J. Paul Rollinson said in a statement. 
Kinross Gold 3-month TSX trading chart

"Although our 2013 operating costs are expected to increase due to higher consumable costs and anticipated lower grades, we are pursuing every opportunity for cost reduction."

Barrick Gold CEO Jamie Sokalsky acknowledged that long-suffering investors in his and other gold companies deserve better and promised to deliver change.

"Rising costs, poor capital allocation and the pursuit of production growth at any cost in the industry have led to declining equity valuations across the sector," he said in a release.

"Barrick highlighted the need for change last year, and we are increasingly taking strong action and re-focusing our business based on the principle that returns will drive production, production will not drive returns."

Sokalsky signalled a go-slow strategy as far as mine expansions are concerned. No new mines are planned, he said.

Barrick and Kinross are the latest mining companies to take huge impairment charges as they wrestle with rising productions costs. 

Shareholders in both companies seemed to like the better-than-expected revenue and adjusted earnings figures, along with the pledges to focus on cost containment.

Barrick shares rose 2.3 per cent to close at $32.44 on the TSX. Barrick's stock price has retreated dramatically from the $50 level a year ago.

Kinross stock jumped 5.4 per cent to $8.34. The stock was trading at almost $20 two years ago.