‘When we announced the Barrick deal, I was very clear this is a copper and gold company. The logic is it comes together’
IS this the year when the deal-shy Bristow actually goes ahead and carries out a big M&A deal for Barrick? The outspoken gold executive has positively revelled over the years in trashing everybody else’s deals and stressing that Barrick remains on the one true path to enhancing shareholder value which is through organic growth. His long-held conviction – delivered with all the finesse of an old-school Bible-thumping preacher – is that the market will reward Barrick for replacing production at a cost cheaper than can be achieved in M&A. That’s what he did at Randgold Resources, but it has not happened so far at Barrick in a market where it seems investors are wary of gold equities in general.
When gold first went through the $2,000/oz level back in 2020, the Barrick share price hit C$40. Over the past year, during which gold has gone through the $2,000/oz level several times, the Barrick share price has remained around C$25. Barrick’s great rival – Newmont – has followed a similar trend with its share price despite blowing $19.5bn last year on buying Newcrest. That was a deal Bristow described as “puzzling”, stating he had no interest in Newcrest.
Bristow has also described Gold Fields’ failed attempt at taking over Yamana as “stupid” while the prior failure to merge AngloGold Ashanti with Gold Fields was a “tragedy”. What may be changing Bristow’s thinking is the rising strategic importance of copper in his future operations. Speculation linked Barrick to a possible play for First Quantum last year while the group is expanding its Lumwana Mine in Zambia and developing the Reko Diq copper-gold mine in Pakistan. Bristow refuses to comment on market speculation so we will just have to wait and see.
LIFE OF MARK
He’s a geologist holding a doctorate from Natal University and owes his career to practising what he preaches on organic growth through exploration. He got his big break through the discovery of the rich Morila deposit in Mali which kick-started Randgold Resources. Despite trashing M&A activity Bristow has proven himself no slouch in this area. He carried out the totally unexpected merger of Randgold with Barrick in 2019 and then followed up with an audacious hostile bid for Newmont. That failed but resulted in the merger of Newmont’s Nevada gold operations with those of Barrick which many believe was what Bristow wanted all along.