JOHANNESBURG Harmony Gold (HARJ.J) may be undervalued but the world's fifth largest gold producer was not vulnerable to a take-over bid, Chief Executive Officer Graham Briggs said on Wednesday.
Analysts have speculated the company could be a target because of the huge potential in its Papua New Guinea operations which are seen key to diversifying the revenue stream from its South African base, where the mines are deep and the political risks are high.
"Are we vulnerable? Well, we have a shiny new toy in Papua New Guinea. We have huge potential which is not necessarily realized in our share price," Briggs said in an interview.
"But do we feel vulnerable? Not really. But looking at the gold price and the dizzy heights it has hit and the way that our share price has reacted to gold, then we think that we are undervalued," he told Reuters.
The price of gold has soared about 29 percent so far this year while Harmony's share price is up about 12 percent in the year to date, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Harmony's share price on Wednesday afternoon was about 1.50 percent lower as part of a broader retreat among gold miners as bullion's spot price slipped from its most recent record highs over $1,900 an ounce.
Briggs said in the current regulatory and economic environment he did not think a hostile bid for the group would emerge.
"I don't think any acquisition these days under these market conditions and with the different regulatory bodies will be hostile ... hostile is not part of the business," he said.
In Papua New Guinea Harmony said on Wednesday that a pre-feasibility study for its promising Wafi-Golpu project, which it shares in a 50/50 joint venture with Australia's Newcrest (NCM.AX), should be completed early next year and it was on track to have the mine up and running by 2017.
The project's production range was pegged at 600,000 to 800,000 ounces of gold per year, up from previous estimates of 300,000 to 700,000 ounces, while Wafi-Golpu's copper output was seen at between 300,000 and 500,000 tonnes per year.
It this project that has provoked market speculation about Harmony as an enticing takeover target because it is regarded as such a rich deposit.
Harmony said on Wednesday that if the gold price stays over 350,000 rand a kg then it should be able to fund from its own revenue stream the $1.5 to $2 billion it will need to develop its share of the project over the next several years.
"At 350,000 rand a kg, we don't see any reason that we need to go and raise money for Wafi-Golpu," Briggs said. The group has also already secured a $300 million revolving loan facility which it can use if it needs for the project.
(Editing by Marius Bosch)