A bulldozer moves rubble at a mine in Tanzania. Picture: BLOOMBERG/TREVOR SNAPP
A bulldozer moves rubble at a mine in Tanzania. Picture: BLOOMBERG/TREVOR SNAPP

London/Toronto — Fidelity International, one of the largest shareholders in Acacia Mining, said on Friday that Barrick Gold’s low bid to buy the Acacia shares it does not already own showed a lack of judgment and it was a “no brainer” to reject it.

The comments in an interview are the first public response from one of Acacia’s top shareholders since Barrick’s offer earlier in May to buy them out for $787m. 

Barrick Gold spun off Acacia into a separate company in 2010 but owns 63.9% of it. Barrick has said the offer level reflects the risk of operating in Tanzania and it has until June 18 to turn the indicative bid into a firm offer. Barrick had no further comment on Friday.

Fidelity International said the bid was about 50% too low. “We are definitely not going to accept the offer,” said Alexander Wright, portfolio manager at Fidelity International. “At this price it’s a complete no brainer not to accept it.”

Fidelity International, with headquarters in Bermuda and offices in London, owns 3.2% of Acacia. It is Acacia’s sixth-biggest investor according to Refinitiv data.

It would require 4% of Acacia’s shareholders to block a compulsory sale and 18% to stop a delisting in the case of formal offer, analysts said.

Two-year wrangle

Barrick’s Acacia offer follows two years of wrangling over a $190bn Tanzanian tax bill. A proposed settlement Barrick announced in February included a $300m payment to resolve the tax claims.

Fidelity International is a small shareholder in Barrick Gold, and Wright said he was also indignant in that capacity. “I think it reflects extremely badly on Barrick,” Wright said of the takeover bid. “The ability to operate fairly and economically in Africa is important for the company. This shows a real lack of judgment.”

Wright said his most recent move into Acacia dated from 2017, when he assumed an amicable resolution to the company’s dispute with the Tanzanian government would be found.

In the absence of a deal with Tanzania, Acacia is expecting to go ahead with an international arbitration hearing in July, whose outcome is expected by the end of 2019.

Acacia’s shares reached a peak above £6 in 2016 and have plunged to less than £2, although they rallied in February on the announcement of the proposed settlement and better-than-expected output.
Reuters