(Adds fund manager quote, details on holdings, background on opposition to deal)
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Kirkland Lake Gold Inc’s largest shareholder, Van Eck Associates, on Wednesday reaffirmed its support for the Canadian miner’s proposed takeover of Newmarket Gold Inc as a deadline passed for shareholder proxy votes to be cast.
Toronto-based Kirkland Lake has offered to buy Newmarket, which operates mines and projects in Australia, in an all-stock transaction valued at about C$1 billion ($742 million).
“We’re supportive of the merger,” Van Eck fund manager Joseph Foster told Reuters, while declining to specify how the fund voted. “It’s just creating a very attractive gold vehicle for us.”
Van Eck Associates owned 19.83 million shares in Kirkland Lake, a 16.88 percent stake, as of Sept. 30, according to the latest Thomson Reuters data. It also held 23.07 million shares in Newmarket, or a 12.96 percent stake, as of Oct. 26, the data showed.
Kirkland Lake and Newmarket shareholders had a midmorning deadline on Wednesday to vote their proxies on the transaction, with results expected on Friday morning.m
Some shareholders and analysts have publicly stated the Newmarket takeover offers few cost-cutting or revenue-generating opportunities, given that the miners’ assets are in different countries.
And some investors argued that Kirkland Lake too hastily rejected three joint offers by Gold Fields Ltd and Silver Standard Resources to acquire Kirkland Lake.
Kirkland Lake confirmed on Nov. 11 a Reuters report that Gold Fields and Silver Standard had made three joint bids for the midsize gold miner and recently sweetened their offer to about C$1.4 billion. The bidders’ names and deal value were not previously disclosed.
Kirkland said its legal advisers and financial advisers concluded the proposals were “not financially superior” to its plan to acquire Newmarket.
Investor advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis have recommended to shareholders of Kirkland Lake and Newmarket that they vote for the deal. ($1 = 1.3477 Canadian dollars) (Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vanccouver,; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jonathan Oatis)