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By Nichola Saminather and John Tilak
TORONTO, Jan 31(Reuters) - Mid-tier miners such as Kinross Gold, Iamgold and Agnico Eagle Mines, seeking to bolster production, would likely bid for mines to be sold following two recent gold mega-mergers, investors and bankers said.
Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining said they will focus on the best-performing mines following their respective acquisitions of Randgold Resources and Goldcorp . This has prompted expectations of mine sales around the world over the next few years.
While the two acquisitions have spurred speculation about a pick up in long-dormant gold M&A, the difficulty of raising capital for larger deals makes single-asset transactions more likely, bankers said.
Mid-tier miners need to boost production after years of growth-killing cost cuts. Also driving demand will be the scarcity value of large mines that have not traditionally be up for sale.
“They aren’t tier one mines or world-class, but a lot of them are very good,” said Christopher Mancini, a mining industry analyst for the Gabelli Gold Fund, who expects Kinross and Iamgold to bid for some of the mines. “Those who are a little bit smaller than these new companies would be interested in these assets” to boost production.
Acquisitive Chinese companies including Zijin Mining Group and Shandong Gold Mining could also snap up the assets, bankers said.
High quality operating mines with long lives in safe jurisdictions like North America are likely to see the strongest interest and get the best prices, they added.
Goldcorp’s Éléonore mine in Quebec fits that description, and one interested party may be Agnico Eagle, which operates in the province, Mancini said. (For a Factbox on mines likely to be sold: )
Agnico Eagle CEO Sean Boyd told Reuters the company will stay focused on single-asset purchases and early-stage takeovers but “we don’t see a lot that can move our needle.”
Kinross has noted advantages to owning an asset in Canada, where it only has a corporate presence.
Kinross and IamGold did not comment. Barrick declined to comment.
Newmont Goldcorp will carefully evaluate each asset after the deal closes to make decisions on potential sales, a Newmont spokesman said.
Australian Newcrest Mining, seen as a likely candidate to combine with a rival, could be interested in the North American mines, bankers said.
Newcrest is focused on organic growth and exploration, and considers asset acquisitions where it can apply technical competitive advantages, spokesman Chris Maitland said this week.
The likely acquirers of mines in joint ventures are the partners, said John Tumazos, chief executive officer of Very Independent Research.
For example, Newmont could acquire Barrick’s 50 percent stake in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Antofagastsa could buy Barrick’s interest in Zaldivar in Chile, Tumazos said.
Antofagasta did not comment.
Zijin could buy Barrick’s stake in Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, Tumazos said.
Investor relations representatives for Zijin and Shandong said they were unaware of plans to buy any of the assets.
The companies may have to be flexible on price to offload mines in challenging jurisdictions, including Barrick’s Lumwana in Zambia and its stake in Porgera, Tumazos said.
“The managers are going to want to get rid of the toughest problems,” Tumazos said. “But the big funds aren’t going to root for these things to be sold at one-tenth of what they used to think they were worth.” (Reporting By Nichola Saminather and John Tilak in Toronto; Additional reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero in Santiago, Tom Daly in Beijing and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by David Gregorio)