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Gold tumble promises M&A boom

Gold’s tumble to the lowest since 2010 promises to prolong a mergers and acquisitions boom that’s seen transactions at a three-year high as weaker prices slash asset valuations.

Deals valued at $9.6 billion were proposed or completed in the six months to June 30, up 7 percent on the previous half, as producers including OceanaGold Corp. agreed acquisitions, according to data complied by Bloomberg. They totaled $22.3 billion last year, the highest since 2011, the data show.

“I’d expect that thematic to continue and the next wave of activity from an M&A point of view might be more mergers,” Reg Spencer, a Sydney-based analyst at Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., said by phone. “Unless the smaller guys get together and get bigger quickly, they’ll find they are less able to compete when assets do become available.”

 Gold producers in Australia gathering Monday for the sector’s three-day annual conference in outback Kalgoorlie, a key center of output since the 1880s, proposed or completed deals worth $4.5 billion in the past 12 months, according to the data. The nation is the largest producer after China.

OceanaGold agreed Thursday to buy Romarco Minerals Inc. in a deal worth C$856 million ($654 million) to add a South Carolina project, the producer’s second mine deal this year.

If the price does drop further, “I’m sure that will create some fantastic opportunities,” Bill Beament, managing director of Northern Star Resources Ltd., Australia’s second-largest producer by market value, said on a July 27 conference call.

Prices will drop to $984 before January, according to the average estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 16 analysts and traders. Bullion capped a sixth weekly decline on Friday and declined to a low of $1,077.40 an ounce on July 24.

Zijin Mining Group Co., which has agreed about $1 billion worth of acquisitions in the past year, and Evolution Mining Ltd. are among attendees in Kalgoorlie seeking further deals.

Barrick Gold Corp. could consider selling its half-share in Kalgoorlie’s Superpit mine, according to Macquarie Capital Markets. Newmont Mining Corp. holds the remaining stake in Australia’s largest open-pit mine. Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd declined to comment on a possible sale of the Superpit stake.

Newcrest Mining Ltd., Australia’s largest producer, has flagged the potential sale of its Telfer mine in Western Australia and is seeking to complete a review of the asset’s future by October.

“This is a pivotal time for the gold industry,” Evolution Executive Chairman Jake Klein said July 30 at a shareholder meeting in Sydney. Assets valuations have tumbled as much as 70 percent since 2011, he said.

As North American producers grapple with declining prices, miners in Australia are being supported by a falling local currency that’s protecting margins.

“Given we’re still seeing a massive rebasing of resources currencies around the world relative to the U.S., I think there will be significantly more deals,” Sydney-based UBS analyst Jo Battershill said by phone.-Bloomberg