Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

Toronto— Barrick Gold, the world’s second-largest producer of the metal, will exceed its target of selling $1.5bn in assets by the end of 2020, CEO Mark Bristow said on Wednesday.

“We’re going to beat it,” Bristow said Wednesday in an interview following the release of the miner’s fourth-quarter earnings. “We still have some work to tidy up the portfolio.”

The company has roughly $450m in sales to go to reach the $1.5bn mark, but expects to sell more than that in 2020, he said.

The Toronto-based company had announced the initial asset-sales target in the wake of its $5.4bn acquisition of Randgold Resources in 2019. Barrick sold a number of assets in 2019 including a 50% stake in its Kalgoorlie mine in Western Australia.

The sales have forced Barrick to narrow its five-year annual production range to 4.8-million to 5.2-million ounces. “This is our base plan and of course there are upsides that we’re working on.”

In November, Barrick had said it expected to maintain its five-year gold production within a range of 5.1-million to 5.6-million ounces, based on its portfolio at the time.

The company plans to release 10-year production guidance at its annual general meeting later in 2020, Bristow said. Barrick is thinking about what the company should look like in the longer term, including its mix between copper and gold production.

In December, Bristow said Barrick may some day look into a possible merger with Freeport-McMoRan, the largest publicly traded copper producer.

On Wednesday, Bristow said that idea is still at a conceptual stage, but could include anything from a merger to the acquisition of Freeport assets.

“Copper is the most strategic metal,” Bristow said.

On Wednesday, the company boosted its quarterly dividend by 40%  after reporting  adjusted net earnings in the three months to the end of December of $300m, or 17c a share, up from $264m in the third quarter. Analysts had forecast earnings of 13c, reports said.

Barrick is benefiting from rising bullion prices, reporting fourth-quarter revenue of $2.88bn that also topped analysts’ estimate. Spot gold averaged about $1,483/oz in the fourth quarter, 21% more than a year earlier, and the metal has extended gains this year as the coronavirus weighs on expectations for economic growth.