Yamana Gold Inc. has not necessarily called it a day on the acquisition front after scooping up Argentina-focused Extorre Gold Mines Ltd in the middle of last year.
"I feel interested in looking (at acquisitions), but I don't feel compelled to buy anything," Yamana Gold chief executive officer Peter Marrone said in an interview after the company reported an 89 per cent jump in fourth-quarter earnings this week.
"Mostly our strategy has been and continues to be that we will be very selective in what we look at," he said, adding that it is "a good time to look," for acquisitions in the mining sector.
Yamana Gold bought Extorre for $395-million last year, snatching up its low-cost, high-grade Cerro Moro project at a time when the target's share price was battered by general investor disenchantment with gold stocks and concerns about the short-term viability of mining in Argentina.
At the time, Extorre justified the sale to Yamana as the best alternative in an environment where options were limited to finance the Cerro Moro project to production without serious erosion of returns. The acquisition appears to be paying off so far, with Yamana announcing a 44 per cent increase in mineral resources there just last week.
Deals like the Extorre acquisition may become more common as early stage development companies come under even more pressure to survive, hurt by debt and equity markets that are all but closed to them and as large mining companies hold back on acquisitions amid surging operating and capital costs.
A case in point would be the deal earlier this week by Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp., a large U.S. silver producer, to buy Vancouver's Orko Silver Corp. for $350-million, again joining a promising asset to a company with the wherewithal to develop it.
To be sure, Mr. Marrone said that before looking outside the company, Yamana would focus its efforts on producing mines in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
"If you have existing assets that can deliver growth, it's always better to rely on your assets because it is cheaper, because you know them better than something that is bought in market," said Mr. Marrone. "In addition to that there are always going to be things that look good, but they look good on paper, and we need to make sure of that value."
The company already expects to boost production by 20 per cent over the next year, to about 1.44 million ounces in 2013 from 1.2 million ounces of gold equivalent ounces in 2012. That figure is seen rising a sustainable 1.75 million ounces per year on the back of existing mine ramp-ups and expansions.
If it does indulge in M&A going forward, Yamana will stick to the countries it already knows, for the time being at least.
"We went from South America to Central America, almost into North America with Mexico and will continue to be an Americas focused company, and that means that there are other jurisdictions that we should look at, will look at, but we'll take our time to do it," he said.
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