Global Wrap: COVID-19, Barrick and more

IN Global Wrap: COVID-19 updates from Glencore, Kirkland Lake and AngloGold; Barrick chairman sells shares; and leadership changes for Centamin and Vedanta.
Global Wrap: COVID-19, Barrick and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Barrick and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Barrick and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Barrick and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Barrick and more

Glencore has deferred a decision on whether to proceed with a US$2.6 billion (20c per share) cash distribution to shareholders in order to maintain its Baa/BBB investment-grade credit ratings and achieve its near-term net debt target of $14-15 billion, down from $17 billion at the end of 2019.

The company has refinanced and extended its revolving credit facilities, increasing the size to nearly $10 billion, up from $9.77 billion.

A separate longer-term $4.65 billion revolving credit facility was extended to 2025.

Glencore said it was generating "material levels of positive free cash at current production levels and spot prices", but would update guidance on production, unit costs and capital expenditure later this month.

"As well as prioritising the health and wellbeing of our people, their families and our communities, we are taking a cautious approach to protect our capital structure amid the current period of extreme uncertainty," Glencore chairman Tony Hayward said.

"Therefore, notwithstanding that Glencore continues to generate material levels of positive free cash in the current environment, the board considers it prudent to defer the distribution decision.

"We will review the opportunity for a distribution at our August results, when we will have an improved understanding of COVID-19's impact on our business and its prospects."

Kirkland Lake Gold has confirmed a worker who had been at its Detour Lake mine in Ontario earlier this month has tested positive for COVID-19.

The worker arrived at the mine with no symptoms on March 12, began showing symptoms and self-isolated on March 14 and was taken from site on the morning of March 16 before testing positive on March 26.

Kirkland Lake immediately informed staff and instructed them to be particularly vigilant in self-monitoring for signs of symptoms. Workers in close contact were urged to seek a medical assessment and self-isolate.

The company said overnight it would suspend the Holt Complex and reduce operations at Macassa, both in Ontario until April 30 due to the increased border restrictions between Ontario and Quebec, which was making travel increasingly difficult.

As a result, it has withdrawn its full-year guidance of 1.47-1.54 million ounces of gold at all-in sustaining costs of $820-840/oz.

"In terms of the measures being announced today, we do not make decisions to suspend or reduce operations lightly, recognising the impact such decisions can have on employment as well as community investment and support," Kirkland Lake president and CEO Tony Makuch said.

"In cases where workers are impacted by these new measures, we have committed to providing their base wages for the month of April to help them get through these very difficult times."

AngloGold Ashanti has withdrawn guidance for 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Cerro Vanguardia mine in Argentina, the Mponeng mine in South Africa and the Serra Grande mine in Brazil have all been temporarily suspended due to government restrictions.

The rest of AngloGold's mines continue to operate.

The company said its operations had a good start to the year, and - notwithstanding an anticipated impact of 30,000-40,000 oz from operations that are suspended at this stage (less than 2% of annual production) - AngloGold remains on track to meet its 2020 guidance.

However, it decided to withdraw guidance due to the uncertainty.

"We have been proactive in positioning ourselves to respond to the impact of the outbreak," CEO Kelvin Dushnisky said.

"We will respond quickly and work in deep partnership with stakeholders whilst doing our part in fighting this global pandemic."

Barrick Gold executive chairman John Thornton sold about half of his stake in the company this week due to "personal portfolio considerations".

Thornton sold 2.6 million shares in the company that he purchased using his personal funds which were not subject to holding restrictions.

Based on closing prices this week, the transaction would have been worth about C$70 million.

He retains 2.6 million shares.

"Mr Thornton confirmed that he would continue to retain and seek to build on what remains a meaningful equity stake in Barrick and that he looks forward to participating in the value created by the many exciting long-term growth opportunities being realised by Barrick's strong management team," Barrick said.

Former Toro Gold boss Martin Horgan has been appointed as CEO of Centamin.

Centamin has been without a full-time CEO since the resignation of Andrew Pardey in October.

Ross Jerrard was appointed interim CEO in December and immediately had his hands full dealing with a takeover bid from Endeavour Mining that petered out mid-January.

Horgan's appointment coincided with the resignation of Centamin's former COO Jeremy Langford to pursue other interests.

Finally, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan has stepped down as CEO and director of Vedanta Resources for personal reasons and will re-join his family in South Africa.

Hindustan Zinc CEO Sunil Duggal has been appointed as interim CEO.

Anil Agarwal has been appointed as non-executive chairman of Vedanta, with Navin Agarwal as executive vice chairman.