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PwC: Gold Equities Reached Breaking Point In 2012

A new day has arrived. Investors and companies are now switching their focus from growth to cash. As that happens, they are looking less at the top line and more at the bottom line — specifically free cash flow per ounce, PwC notes in the report.

To convince investors that they have changed, gold miners are reportedly set to display better judgment in employing capital as they switch to strategies that prioritize the rate of return.

PwC found that senior gold companies generally have strong cash positions. An analysis of 46 of the largest TSX companies revealed that over half have cash reserves in excess of $500 million. And the vast majority of all the participants surveyed see gold prices increasing this year. None foresee the price of gold declining.

But strong gold prices have been a source of irritation for gold equity investors. That's because as metal prices have gone up, gold stock prices have lagged.

To correct this divergence, 60 percent of the participating companies expressed plans to institute cost-management programs.

All the senior miners surveyed said they will continue to use their hoards of cash to pay dividends this year, and 80 percent reported plans to increase the dividend they pay. All of the seniors will also continue to use cash for exploration and development.

The number of junior and mid-tier gold miners who will use cash for dividends is set to increase from 20 percent last year to 28 percent in 2013; half of this number also expressed intentions to boost the amount of profit distributed to shareholders. 89 percent of these small and mid-sized companies plan to use cash for project development and 83 percent will spend on exploration activities.

Participating seniors did not spend their cash on share repurchases in 2012 and none expressed plans to do so this year. Eight percent of the junior and mid-tier participants engaged in share buybacks last year, but only 6 percent have such plans for 2013.

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