By Allison Martell
DENVER (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp <ABX. TO> is in talks on further asset sales, with the focus on divesting smaller, higher-cost mines, Chief Executive Jamie Sokalsky told Reuters on Tuesday.
Barrick, the world's largest gold producer, announced a deal last month to sell three of its high-cost mines in Australia for $300 million. The company is looking to improve returns in the face of weaker metal prices and ballooning costs.
Sokalsky said Barrick could sell more mines, especially those that are relatively high cost, have shorter mine lives and limited opportunity to expand through exploration. Some of the company's remaining assets in Australia fit that profile, he said.
"There's quite a level of interest, even though as I've said it's a buyer's market," Sokalsky said, speaking on the sidelines of the Denver Gold Forum in Colorado. "We're getting unsolicited inquiries from quite a number of parties."
Barrick also sold its energy businesses for about C$455 million ($441.77 million) earlier this year.
Some analysts have suggested that Barrick should spin off assets instead of selling them into a tough market. In 2010, it spun out numerous African mines into a new company, retaining a majority stake in African Barrick Gold PLC <ABGL. L>.
Barrick has since been shopping around that stake, and a deal to sell it to state-owned China National Gold Group fell apart in January when both parties walked away after failing to settle on a price.
Sokalsky said Barrick is focused on improving operations at African Barrick, not on a quick sale, and that the company does not have a timetable for divesting its stake.
More spin-offs are not on the agenda, he said, citing tax considerations and the administrative requirements that come with being involved with another public company.
"For us, it would be better to exit simply, take the cash and move on," he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Denver Gold Forum in Colorado.
($1 = 1.0300 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Allison Martell in Denver; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Adler)