By Nichola Saminather
TORONTO (Reuters) - Two recent large M&A deals in the gold sector have prompted speculation that Newcrest Mining (AX:NCM), Kinross Gold Corp (TO:K) and B2Gold Corp (TO:BTO) may be among the next gold companies to combine with a rival, bankers and analysts said.
Deal-making had largely been dormant in the gold sector in recent years, as companies focused on cutting costs amid investor criticism of inadequate management of capital. But the need to bolster shrinking gold reserves to boost growth and take advantage of rising gold prices are now providing the impetus for consolidation.
"There are potential benefits to consolidation and gold miners that can generate returns above cost of capital will likely be rewarded over time," Chris LaFemina, an equity analyst at Jefferies, wrote in a note on Monday.
Gold producers who have good assets but face stagnant growth are seeking to partner with well-run companies, according to bankers and analysts.
Eyes are on Australia's Newcrest, capitalized at around 18 billion Australian dollars ($13 billion), a banker close to the Newmont-Goldcorp deal said.
A buyout of a North American miner could improve Newcrest's valuation by offering a dual listing, said Andy Forster, portfolio manager at Argo Investments in Sydney.
"They have got some organic growth, but ... being listed out here they are probably overlooked a little bit by North American (investors)."
Brenton Saunders, an analyst with Sydney-based fund manager Pendal Group, said Newcrest was more likely a buyer than a target.
"My sense is they want to buy something - not small, but manageable - more of a single asset somewhere in the Americas."
Newcrest spokesman Chris Maitland told Reuters, "If we can see an asset where we can ... use one of our competitive advantages to increase the value of that asset, that's how we'd approach M&A."
Canadian miner Kinross and AngloGold Ashanti (J:ANGJ), based in South Africa, are among the gold producers that could combine with other companies, analysts and bankers said.
"If you do a list of who has high-cost assets, those are the guys who have to make deals," another person close to the Newmont-Goldcorp deal said.
Kinross did not immediately respond to a request for comment. AngloGold Ashanti could not be reached outside business hours.
Kinross needs to focus on replacing depleted assets, and would likely hone in on North America if it were to do a deal, analysts at Scotiabank wrote in November.
Vancouver-based B2Gold, which has operations in Africa, South America and the Philippines, could be a target because of its strong growth profile, said sector watchers, including PI Financial's Chris Thompson, who has a "buy" rating on the stock.
B2Gold did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The acquirer would likely be a company that has operational expertise in the jurisdictions B2Gold operates in, particularly West Africa, which offers the best growth prospects for the company, Thompson said.
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