Eldorado Gold Corp. may sell its Brazilian gold operations as it seeks to raise capital over the next 18 months, says a precious-metals fund manager.
While the struggling Vancouver-based intermediate gold producer has no urgent cash crunch, its longer-term capital expenditure needs far exceed cash holdings.
In a conference call with analysts following its year-end results last month, chief executive officer George Burns said Eldorado will explore all financing options, including “divestiture at the right price of some of our assets that aren’t top priority.”
Jon Case, precious-metals portfolio manager with Sentry Investments, says the company’s Tocantinzinho gold project in Brazil is likely to go on the block. “All roads point to Tocantinzinho,” he said.
Within Eldorado’s portfolio, Tocantinzinho is one of its lowest-grade, highest-cost projects to develop.
“[Tocantinzinho] in Brazil would be very far down the list of rates of return, Mr. Case said. “I would suspect that is probably the main asset that’s going to be put up for sale.”
Eldorado completed a feasibility study on Tocantinzinho in 2015, but plans for a mine have been on hold, partly because the project needs sustained high gold prices to be profitable.
An analyst who declined to be named because of company policy, said Eldorado could likely sell Tocantinzinho for between US$40-million and US$50-million.
In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail on Friday, Louise Burgess, a spokeswoman for Eldorado, said the company can’t comment on market speculation.
According to Sentry’s Mr. Case, Leagold Mining Corp. is one possible buyer of Tocantinzinho. Over the past few years, Vancouver-based Leagold has been steadily acquiring assets in Latin America. Just this week, Leagold got the go-ahead to acquire mid-tier gold producer Brio Gold Inc., which operates a number of Brazilian gold mines, for US$279-million.
When asked on Friday whether Leagold was considering buying Tocantinzinho, company spokeswoman Meghan Brown said CEO Neil Woodyer was unavailable for comment.
Other financing options Eldorado could explore, according to the analyst, would be selling a silver stream on its Olympias mine in Greece, or a copper stream on its Skouries project, also in Greece.
While seen as an expensive form of capital, selling a stream on a non-core metal is becoming common practice for gold producers in a market where selling equity capital is more constrained
Over the past few years, Eldorado has been one of Canada’s worst-performing precious-metals stocks. Last year, production at its marquee Kisladag property in Turkey fell dramatically after the company’s ore-recovery rates unexpectedly plummeted. To get the mine fully up and running again, Eldorado needs to build a mill at a cost of around US$490-million, with a final construction decision expected later this year.
Eldorado has also been plagued with geopolitical problems in Greece as it attempts to win approvals for its Skouries gold mine, a project into which it has already sunk around US$400-million. Last year, the company halted development of Skouries after Greece objected to its processing plans for metal concentrates. Eldorado recently won an arbitration case against the Greek government, but uncertainty remains over whether additional permits will be forthcoming.
Eldorado, like many miners, has been diversifying away from high-risk jurisdictions. Last year, the company bought Integra Gold Corp. for $590-million, giving it exposure to the Lamaque gold project in Quebec, which is scheduled to go into production in 2019.
The company held US$485-million of cash as of the end of last year and expects to spend US$275-million in cap-ex this year and in excess of US$300-million in 2019.