) -- You can't say
told the whole truth and you can't say the company intentionally misled investors. The golden truth is somewhere in between.
On Wednesday, Barrick Gold announced it would issue over 94 million shares and use the capital to close out its gold hedges, fixed-priced contracts and a portion of its floating spot price contracts. Hedges allow a company to sell gold at a set price, which can guarantee a certain profit, but when the spot price soars the company's earnings power is capped.
Barrick's decision on Wednesday raised some eyebrows. Back in February 2007, Barrick announced that it eliminated all Corporate Gold Sales Contracts. Then-President and CEO Greg Wilkins said on the conference call that the "elimination of all non-project related hedge contracts allows the company to benefit fully from higher gold prices at its operating mines."
So when the company announced over two years later that it was closing out its hedges - again -- investors asked: Did Barrick lie to investors back in 2007?
The answer is, no, not technically. Barrick just did some "creative messaging," as an industry insider called it. The truth is in 2007 Barrick still had 9.5 million ounces of project hedges set at $340 an ounce and 1.6 million of floating spot price gold contracts which it planned to eliminate by the end of the second quarter. An industry insider said Barrick kept some projects hedged as a way to "help them finance their development stage projects
but in fact they were an increasing liability with rising gold prices," Barrick's 9.5 million ounces had a mark-to-market position of negative $5.6 billion.
In 2007, Barrick threw around fancy words like corporate gold contracts and project sales, not necessarily to mislead investors -- but they definitely confused matters. A Haywood Securities analyst even wrote after a Feb. 23, 2007 earnings call that "Barrick's no-hedge strategy should start to deliver a better market valuation." But the truth was Barrick was never completely unhedged.
A representative from Barrick Gold could not be reached for comment.
Written by Alix Steel in New York.
Alix joined TheStreet.com TV in February 2007. Previously, she held positions in film and theater production, management, and legal administration. Alix has a degree in communications and theater from Northwestern University.