Barrick Gold Corp. says its proposal to acquire Acacia Mining PLC is “fair,” and it’s doubling down on claims that its London-based subsidiary has overvalued some of its mines.
In a statement on Wednesday, Barrick said that “certain assumptions made by Acacia in relation to its mine plans are not appropriately risked or supportable and that adjustments should be made.”
Last week, Barrick expressed skepticism about the true value of some of Acacia’s assets, suggesting its own analysis shows that Acacia may be overestimating grade and underestimating costs at some of its mines.
On Monday, Acacia said it “strongly disagrees” and “sees no reasonable basis” for the assessment. The company said that independent consultant SRK Consulting (UK) Limited recently concluded that Acacia’s resource modelling for its mines is “robust.”
Acacia declined further comment on Wednesday.
Last month, Toronto-based Barrick said it was willing to acquire the 36.1 per cent of Acacia that it doesn’t already own for US$285-million in stock. At the time, the proposal was worth about 9 per cent less than Acacia’s market value.
Barrick’s attempt to acquire Acacia, which operates three gold mines in Tanzania, is strongly motivated by a desire to put an end to a geopolitical quarrel in the East African country that has dragged on for more than two years.
In March, 2017, Tanzania banned Acacia from exporting gold concentrate, ostensibly to promote the creation of a domestic smelting industry. But a few months later, Tanzania accused Acacia of US$200-billion in tax fraud. Later that year, Barrick announced a tentative agreement that would have seen Acacia pay a US$300-million penalty to Tanzania to end the spat, but a final deal was not reached. Acacia’s management has largely been locked out of negotiations with Tanzania, with Barrick, as its biggest shareholder, instead acting on its behalf.
Last October, in a sign of deteriorating relations between Acacia and Tanzania, three current or former Acacia employees were charged with criminal money-laundering offences, imprisoned without chance of bail, and are still waiting for a trial. Barrick said in May that Tanzania is refusing to deal with Acacia and would not sign any final agreement to end the dispute if Acacia remained a counterparty.
A number of Acacia’s minority shareholders and analysts have argued Barrick’s current proposal is too low, but chief executive Mark Bristow has made it clear he has no intention of increasing the offer.
Barrick has until July 9 to table a formal bid, or walk away.
Over the past month, as Barrick’s share price has increased in line with the price of gold, the value of its all-stock offer for Acacia has risen by more than 20 per cent.
Shares in Barrick fell by 1.3 per cent to close at $20.81 apiece Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.