(Adds details, in U.S. dollars unless noted)
By Cameron French
TORONTO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO) expects gold prices to keep shooting higher, the company’s chief financial officer said on Thursday, but the gold miner doesn’t plan to rush out and make a large acquisition any time soon.
However, Agnico-Eagle is on the lookout for development stage properties, and could pick up one this year, David Garofalo said.
Garofalo said he wouldn’t be surprised to see gold reach its inflation-adjusted record high of around $2,200 an ounce over the next three to five years, due to its appeal as an investment in an environment of rising inflation and slowing growth.
“We don’t foresee monetary policy tightening any time soon. We think there’s significant risk of recession in the U.S., and that will have a contagion impact on the rest of the industrialized world,” he told reporters after a presentation in Toronto.
“We don’t see any reason in this cycle why (gold) shouldn’t reach its real all-time high, which is actually about $2,200 an ounce,” he said, adding the time frame of three to five years.
Spot gold was near its record high at $890 on Thursday, but if the impact of inflation is removed, that is less than half its value back in 1980. Bullion climbed as high as $850 an ounce in January 1980 in real terms.
Toronto-based Agnico-Eagle, which plans to bring five mines into production as it pushes its output to 1.3 million ounces by 2010, said it does not expect to make any big moves on the acquisition front, but will focus on picking up development properties likely worth less than 15 percent of its C$9 billion market capitalization.
“We’re not into betting the company on any one acquisition,” Garofalo said during the presentation, adding the company may add to its pipeline this year.
He also said there had not been any talks with potential buyers for Agnico.
Agnico-Eagle expects to produce 360,000 ounces this year, as it adds production from the Goldex mine in Quebec and the Kittila mine in Finland to its flagship La Ronde mine, which is also is Quebec.
Production will be further boosted in 2009 by output from the company’s Lapa mine, which is near La Ronde, and by the Pinos Altos project in Mexico.
By 2010, its sees production at 1.3 million, as its massive Meadowbank mine in Nunavut will begin producing at an initial rate of 435,000 ounces a year.
Agnico expects reserves to grow to between 18 million and 20 million ounces from 16.3 million ounces over the next 15 months through exploration of current mine sites.
Garofalo said the company had uncovered a new ore body at Pinos Altos and expects to be able to announce an expanded resource this year.
Cash costs are seen at $230 an ounce from 2010 to 2017.
Agnico shares touched a record high of C$63.67 on Thursday, but by the close had pared their gains to end 84 Canadian cents higher at C$62.25 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock has risen more than 14 percent already this year.
$1=$1.01 Canadian Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Rob Wilson