The second quarter of 2013 is one that gold miners and their investors would love to forget. Unfortunately, they will have to relive the horrors when the companies start reporting earnings later this month.
The results will be ugly. Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus estimated that the gold miners under their coverage (which includes the senior producers and a smattering of others) will report an average 20% drop in EBITDA from the first quarter. Lower metal prices are obviously a key factor, but so is an anticipated decline in production (down 1%) and an increase in cash costs (up 8%).
With squeezing margins and potential mine closures on investors’ minds, the Stifel analysts ran their models at a gold price of US$1,000 an ounce to see how many operations would have to shut down if the price stayed at that level for an extended period. They found that Kinross Gold Corp., Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp. would lose well over 30% of their production from closures. But Goldcorp Inc. would only lose 7% because of its low-cost asset base.
“With a management response on costs, probably half of the production loss could be saved for a year or two. However, the simple study shows that there would be strong supply side support at US$1,000 [an ounce],” they said in a note.
The only gold miner under Stifel Nicolaus coverage to be downgraded is Barrick Gold Corp., which was cut to hold from buy by analyst George Topping. He noted the company needs higher gold prices to pay off its debt, and the stock is likely to drift lower if prices remain flat. He also anticipates a dividend cut in the second quarter, along with US$7-billion to US$8-billion of writedowns. Neither of those moves would come as a surprise to investors.