Newcrest dismisses Newmont offer, opens books as profit beats expectations

By Melanie Burton and Roushni Nair

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Australia’s Newcrest Mining Ltd on Thursday rebuffed Newmont Corp’s $16.9 billion takeover bid, but left the door open for a better offer as it logged profit that surged past analyst expectations and paid out a special dividend.

Newcrest said its board had unanimously determined to reject the offer which it said did not offer sufficient value to shareholders, but said it would open its books on a limited, non-exclusive basis to Newmont, the world’s largest gold miner. 

“We haven’t set any specific timeline around that,” interim Chief Executive Sherry Duhe told a media earnings call.

Duhe said Newcrest would offer non-public information around its growth projects without going into detail.

Newmont did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment but a source familiar with management’s thinking previously told Reuters Newmont was open to sweetening its offer.

No. 2 gold producer Barrick Gold Corp Chief Executive Mark Bristow ruled out the possibility that Barrick would launch a counter bid for Newcrest in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday. 

Simon Mawhinney, portfolio manager at Allan Gray, Newcrest’s largest shareholder, said the board had made a reasonable decision to engage, and that he was pleased with the company’s decision to pay a special dividend.

“I have said that I thought the offer was a bit light. I guess it’s not surprising that the board has taken a similar view,” he said.

Analysts have said that the offer does not sufficiently value the long lives of Newcrest’s assets and also its contingent of copper, highly prized as a key metal in the energy transition, and was instead capitalising on recent leadership changes at the Australian company.

Newcrest is looking for a new chief executive but Duhe declined to offer details on the search.

Analysts were looking for Newmont to offer around a 30% premium or around A$31 a share, more than bid which was at a 21% premium to Newcrest’s preannouncement share price. Newcrest traded last at A$23.83, down 2% amid declines in gold stocks.

Newcrest declared a special dividend of 20 cents per share, after Canada’s Lundin Gold Inc repaid early a credit facility related to its Fruta del Norte mine in Ecuador.

“They have returned the proceeds from the sale of the Lundin financing facilities to shareholders as a special dividend, which I think is good governance,” Mawhinney added.

The miner had beat analyst expectations on higher revenue with the addition of its Canadian Brucejack operations and higher sales volume for gold and copper at its key Cadia mine

Newcrest said its underlying profit was $293 million for the half-year ended Dec. 31, beating estimates of $184 million, according to Refinitiv. That compared with an underlying profit of $298 million a year earlier.

Lower realized gold and copper prices brought home lesser profit while increased activities and inflation drove up costs.

The miner received $1,696 for every ounce of gold sold in the six months ended Dec. 31, compared with $1,733 per ounce logged last year.

The company also declared an interim dividend of 15 cents per share, compared with last year’s 7.5 cents.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne and Roushni Nair and Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Matthew Lewis)