UPDATE 2-Kyrgyzstan halts talks with Centerra on Kumtor; shares fall

Tue Dec 22, 2015 2:49pm EST
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(Adds analyst reaction, details on share price move)

By Olga, Dzyubenko and Euan Rocha

BISHKEK/TORONTO Dec 22 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's government said on Tuesday it had stopped talks with Canada's Centerra Gold on restructuring their joint Kumtor project because the current agreement "ran counter to the country's national interests."

The decision, the latest twist in a drawn-out tussle over the mine's fate, sent shares in Centerra sliding nearly 6 percent in afternoon trading in Toronto.

The government said it would propose a new restructuring project to develop Kumtor, the Central Asian nation's largest gold field, seeking "an increase in financial flows" for Kyrgyzstan.

Centerra, which operates Kumtor, has been in talks with Kyrgyzstan for almost two years on a deal that would involve the ex-Soviet republic swapping its 32.7 percent stake in Centerra for half of a joint venture that would control the gold deposit.

RBC analyst Stephen Walker said the move should be neutral to Centerra shares, "as at this point it remains unclear what the government's preferred ownership structure would be."

Walker, who has an "underperform" rating on the stock, said in a note to clients that he would remain cautious until further clarity on the status of the issues in Kyrgyzstan is provided.

Centerra was not immediately reachable for comment.   Continued...