A recent slide in the price of gold is temporary and the precious metal will continue to rise for years, the founder of the world's largest gold miner Barrick Gold Corp. said on Monday.
Peter Munk, 82, Barrick's chairman, said in an interview that economic uncertainty and investor wariness about other asset classes - particularly currencies - would continue to support gold, which hit record highs in June.
"I expect the trend to continue because I think once people have lost confidence in their currency, once people have lost big money in equities and in bonds and traditional vehicles, their confidence in gold, especially having seen gold rise year in and year out for a decade, is reinforced," he told Reuters.
Gold hit a record $1,264.90 (U.S.) an ounce in June as investors flocked to it as a hedge against sovereign debt turmoil in countries such as Greece and Portugal. It has since fallen and traded around the $1,190 level on Monday.
"A temporary setback is normal in all trading situations and is not going to change that," Mr. Munk said, but added later: "I am categorically not a gold bug."
Barrick last week said its second-quarter profits rose 59 per cent on record bullion prices, prompting the firm to raise its dividend 20 per cent.
Mr. Munk said the company would keep raising its dividend as the price of gold increases in the future.
"Barrick's mission right now to maintain its leadership position in the industry is to improve its margins, pay out more dividends, cater more to an ever-greater shareholder base," he said.
"The higher the gold price, the higher the return. The higher the return, it enables us more to increase our dividends."
Mr. Munk also said high profit margins would provide a safety cushion for Barrick to operate without hedges. Such contracts offered forward sales at lower gold prices, but limited profit when gold prices rose as they have over the past decade.
Barrick last year spent about $5-billion - resulting in an annual loss - to close out its hedges against lower gold prices.
"It's a major plus for us because the hedge was a counter-balance liability," Mr. Munk said on the end of hedging.
Barrick, started in in 1983, has interests in 26 operating mines. Mr. Munk declined to detail any pending acquisitions, but added: "It is economically very prudent to add on to the land holdings, for example, of a perspective area."
Despite U.S. government assessments that there is vast gold and other mineral potential in Afghanistan, Mr. Munk said that was not a region Barrick was interested in exploring.
"Gold finds are becoming more and more difficult right now," Mr. Munk said.
"What most large companies do now, they look for mixed metal mines, where gold is a part of other metals and other minerals....I think that is the future growth area for large gold producers."
Mr. Munk said past hedging made it possible for Barrick to grow by creating a steady cash flow.
He said his experience in the 1950s and 60s with Clairtone, a high-end Canadian stereo company that ultimately failed, helped explain his cautious approach as he built up Barrick.
"I learned more in that year of failure than I did in 50 years," he said.