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Message: Fascinating Article on the Current Climate in Mergers

From Mineweb - the President of B2Gold tells why it's so hard to take over assets -

Those damm juniors just don't want to give it up cheap.

Acquisition frustration boils over at B2Gold

B2Gold president and CEO Clive Johnson argues companies haven't been receptive enough to acquisitions during quarterly conference call.


When someone says they don't mean to give a sermon, it's usually the case they're pounding the pulpit and all but wearing a clerical collar. At the end of comments during a quarterly B2Gold (TSX: BTO) conference call, Clive Johnson, the president and CEO of B2Gold, said just that after cutting down mining and exploration companies and the men and women who run them, who, as he put it, play games in signing confidentiality agreements or aren't otherwise receptive to potential deals.

Indeed Johnson went so far as to say that only 25 percent of the field of management behind mining and exploration companies have the executive and technical expertise to run them. "Quite frankly there are too many companies out there," Johnson said, who intends to expand on the topic at the Denver Gold Forum.

Johnson was voicing frustration. B2Gold is on the hunt for acquisitions, as are many other mining and mineral exploration companies. The goal is to grow and, presumably, to take advantage of markets that have not been this bad since 2008, or that are arguably worse.

The slow grind down over the past year - as opposed to the trampoline like crash and recovery in 2008/2009 - has forced many, explorers especially, into ever tightening corners as money burns out. As James West of the Midas Letter succinctly retold the history of junior crashes recently: "Since the post-2009 high of 2,423 reached in March of 2011 (on the TSX Venture), we have again seen the market sliding back towards the sub-1,000 mark, but this time, it's happening so slowly that its toll on public company treasuries in the junior resource space is far worse. Companies deferred raising money throughout 2011, as the feeling was that the markets were poor, and they would wait for improvement. Well now the markets are worse, and more companies are running on fumes."

B2Gold is in a position to take advantage of that. Like a host of other gold producers, B2Gold has a lot of gas in the tank (cash around $80 million) accumulated over the past couple years of especially healthy gold prices and concomitant high margins. And Johnson pointed out that B2Gold, relative to peers, had done relatively well in terms of share price. No wonder he said, "We're very keen on acquisitions."

But being stymied in its efforts, Johnson said it was surprising how many companies out there are unwilling to sign confidentiality agreements at all. And if they are willing, they come with caveats - shackles in the form of standstill agreements - that make it tough to do anything even if you can get into the data room. The self interest here is evident. B2Gold wants to leverage its position of relative strength. The beaten down, however, see no reason to put ink on paper at market lows. To do so is like starved lambs letting the fat wolves in, the thinking may go. If they do open the gate, well, they add a little poison to the ink.

Yet Johnson - sermonizing or no - will undoubtedly find some nodding heads before him in the audience when he says there isn't enough action out there in acquisitions. We have been hearing for about a year now how mergers and acquisitions would save the junior market. Light a spark. Fuel some unbridled buying on the TSX Venture. It hasn't happened.

Shareholders take note. If those who are doing the looking are to be believed, it is management on the receiving end of interest getting in the way. In that, some of those being targeted may be afraid of a bully's deal: your lunch money in return for not getting kicked in the groin. Hard to take that to shareholders. There are surely cases where there is reason to sit and wait longer; because you have the cash and a grand plan that does not include getting taken out at extreme share price lows. In other cases, however, myopia may be getting the better of management and egos getting in the way. If this drags on, there will be better reason for the kind of shareholder dissent we have started to increasingly witness. Or there should be.

But not to sermonize or anything like that.

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