Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX:US) is discussing the succession of Chairman Peter Munk, who previously announced his intention to retire, and expects governance changes to take effect at the company’s next annual general meeting.
Munk’s succession is one of several issues raised by investors, Toronto-based Barrick said today in a filing. The world’s biggest gold producer also is considering changes to executive-compensation arrangements, and the “rejuvenation” of the board through departures and the addition of independent directors.
Munk, who turned 86 today and has led the company since its founding 30 years ago, said in March it was “appropriate” that Barrick consider a path to new leadership at a board level. He “searched the world” to find John Thornton, who was appointed co-chairman of the company in June 2012, Munk said in April.
“I think we can finally talk about a definitive date for Munk’s retirement -- the AGM,” Robert Gill, a Toronto-based fund manager at Aston Hill Financial Inc., which manages about C$8 billion including Barrick shares, said today by e-mail.
Barrick shares dropped to two-decade lows this year as gold prices fell, the company’s debt rose and delays boosted costs at its $8.5 billion Pascua-Lama mine project on the border of Chile and Argentina. The company said Oct. 31 it will suspend development of the mine and announced later the same day it agreed to raise as much as $3.34 billion in a share sale to cut debt.
In April, some of Barrick’s biggest Canadian investors criticized the company for awarding Thornton an $11.9 million signing bonus. Canada’s biggest pension funds want new independent board members at Barrick and say the miner should consider replacing directors who have been there longer than 20 years and are close to Munk, two investors briefed on the matter said in September.
Barrick has said previously it will alter its compensation policies and add new directors.
“The company’s intention is to update the market before year end on these initiatives, with governance changes expected to take effect in conjunction with Barrick’s next annual meeting,” it said today.
The company’s annual meetings have been in late April or early May since at least 2005.
Barrick rose 0.5 percent to C$19.07 at the close in Toronto, while gold futures in New York declined 1.6 percent to $1,287.50 an ounce.
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