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Investors confident despite Barrick CEO departure
March 28, 2008 / 7:46 PM / 10 years ago

Investors confident despite Barrick CEO departure

TORONTO, March 28 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold’s (ABX.TO) deep pool of talent and track record of succession planning is letting investors shrug off the surprise departure of Chief Executive Greg Wilkins, as the company’s founder, Peter Munk, temporarily retakes the reigns.

But analysts said immediate growth plans may be put on hold until it is clear what will come of Wilkins’ leave of absence, which the company said was due to “a serious medical condition.” They were not worried about the company.

“Barrick certainly has the horsepower to carry on, but we’re just hoping that Greg gets through whatever the issues are,” said Barry Allan, a mining analyst at Research Capital.

Shares of Barrick, the world’s biggest gold producer, were down 53 Canadian cents, or 1.15 percent, at C$45.62 -- in line with a slide in its gold-sector peers amid a broader fall on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Wilkins, president and CEO since 2003, was to undergo medical tests and prepare for treatment, Barrick spokesman Vince Borg said.

Barrick did not detail Wilkins’ condition and did not say how long he may be away. Munk, who founded the company 25 years ago, was set to conduct investor meetings in Europe next week.

“There are absolutely no changes in our strategy, approach and focus on this year’s objectives,” Borg said.

Analysts who spoke off the record generally agreed, but noted that Wilkins is very well regarded on the Street and has overseen several acquisitions while CEO, including the purchase of Canadian rival Placer Dome in 2006.

There was little agreement on a likely successor, if one is needed.

“Barrick is very good with succession planning, and they have a pretty good stable of talent to draw from,” Allan said.

Chief Financial Officer Jamie Sokalsky, who took his post in 2004, will join Munk in the European tour. The company’s other executive vice president is Peter Kinver, who began as chief operating officer in 2003.

Wilkins, a chartered accountant, was named chairman of the World Gold Council, an industry group, earlier this month.

$1=$1.02 Canadian Editing by Janet Guttsman

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