Barrick to sell $3 billion in stock to buy back hedges

Wed Sep 9, 2009 7:04am EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Barrick Gold will issue $3 billion in stock to eliminate all of its fixed-price gold hedges and a portion of its floating hedges, taking a $5.6 billion hit to third-quarter earnings, the world's top gold miner said on Tuesday.

For Barrick, which expects gold prices to keep rising, the deal should remove what has been a big drag on its shares, the legacy of the company's past reliance on hedging, a practice it abandoned in 2003.

During times of weak prices, gold miners often sell a portion of their future production to protect, or hedge, against the possibility that prices will fall.

When prices rise, as they have done since 2001, the company suffers because value of the future production they've sold does not increase with the gold price.

"It's long overdue," John Ing, president of Toronto investment dealer Maison Placements, said of the move.

"In the bear market, (hedging) saved a lot of people, but in the bull market it just added supply to the market ... it was the original derivative."

Barrick took a $557 million charge to buy out its production hedge book two years ago, and has faced repeated questions from analysts and shareholders since then about its plans for the remaining 9.5 million ounces it had hedged to finance projects.

"The gold hedge book has been a particular concern among our shareholders and the broader market, which we believe has obscured the many positive developments within the company," Barrick Chief Executive Aaron Regent said in a statement.   Continued...