Barrick Gold proposes US$750 million one-time return of capital to shareholders

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CALGARY — Buoyed by stronger gold and copper prices and flush with cash after realizing $1.5 billion in proceeds from the sale of non-core assets since 2019, Barrick Gold Corp. is proposing to return US$750 million to its shareholders later this year.

The Toronto-based miner said Thursday it will ask shareholders at its annual meeting in May to vote in favour of a one-time distribution of 42 cents per share.

"Last year, we set ourselves very specific objectives. As you can see here, we ticked all those boxes," said CEO Mark Bristow on a conference call.

"We met our production target, delivered on our business plans and fully capitalized on the higher gold price and copper prices. We increased free cash flow to an annual record of $3.4 billion against a 27 per cent rise in the gold price, and we achieved our goal of zero net debt by the end of the year."

The payment would be made in three equal tranches and is in addition to the company's regular dividend, it said.

Barrick shares trended lower on Thursday despite the promised payout, falling by as much as 66 cents per share to $25.75.

The miner's updated 2021 gold production guidance for a range between 4.4 million and 4.7 million ounces was slightly lower than previous expectations and would likely result in a negative reaction in markets, said National Bank analyst Mike Parkin in a report early Thursday.

The guidance doesn't include the company's Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea which remains idled while Barrick works toward an agreement with the national government to reopen it.

Barrick, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, reported a profit of US$2.32 billion or $1.31 per share for 2020, down from a profit of $3.97 billion or $2.26 per share in 2019.

On an adjusted basis, Barrick says it earned $2.04 billion or $1.15 per share in 2020, up from an adjusted profit of $902 million or 51 cents in 2019.

Its realized gold price for all of 2020 was US$1,778 per ounce, up from US$1,396 in 2019, and production was 4.76 million ounces, down from 5.46 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first Feb. 18, 2021.

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Dan Healing, The Canadian Press