Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX) – Gotta do it, gotta do it big, Big, ba-ba-bi-big (Transcript)

The Equinox Gold company logo.

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Interview with Christian Milau, CEO of Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX)

Equinox Gold, listed around 2 years ago with Ross Beaty as the main shareholder, with goals to become a multi-jurisdiction, large-cap gold mining company.

Equinox has a promising portfolio of assets: Mesquite Gold Mine, a Californian project producing 125,000-145,000oz gold per annum with an AISC of US$930-$980/oz and a grade of 0.46g/t gold (exclusive of reserves), Aurizona Gold Mine, a Brazilian gold mine producing 75,000-90,000oz per annum with inferred resources of 1.1Moz @ 1.98g/t gold (with an exploration upside) and an AISC of US$950-1025, Castle Mountain Gold Mine, an under-construction gold mine with a PFS and production potential of 200,000oz per annum and a 16-year life-of-mine, and a copper-focussed spin-out operation in the form of Solaris Copper Inc.

Equinox has had a quite remarkable rise over the last few years, with its share price hovering around CA$5 at the start of 2019, now standing at CA$10.95 today. The market cap is an impressive CA$1.24B.

We spoke with Milau about a variety of topics. Targets that were set have been well and truly delivered. Mesquite and Aurizona are up and running, producing at a reasonable scale with a good AISC. Castle Mountain should be ready to rock by Q3/20. Equinox has kept things simple and it is reaping the rewards.

The portfolio is focussed; thus, projects aren’t lying around waiting to be put into production like they are for so many mining companies. Equinox’s message is simple: make good acquisitions, and get that gold out of the ground! 11% insider ownership is another reassuring fact for investors, alongside a more diversified shareholder base than when we last spoke with Milau.

We then move into Equinox’s spending strategy, in addition to the gold macro story. What does the outlook for the gold market look like for 2020? Milau states that his thesis denotes this is only the beginning of this new gold cycle. Milau is conscious it won’t all be plain sailing, but this is an early stage of the turn (US$17T of negative-yielding debt, solid stock markets and slowing global growth). The best is yet to come? Equinox has no intention of being taken out. It plans to become a long-term investment opportunity that can last through several cycles. Equinox appears to have the leverage to make use of a rising gold price. We appreciate Milau’s pragmatic take on gold margins: Equinox is not rushing to produce; there is no spike in production. Equinox is managing a steady, structured increase. To continue to grow, Equinox will proceed with developing its current assets and look at new acquisitions when the time is right. It recently announced a (28th Jan) merger with Leagold Mining Corporation that will combine the companies, ‘creating one of the world’s top gold producing companies operating entirely in the Americas.’ This should position Equinox even more strongly. Equinox has recently had debt repaid to it by Serabi Gold, so it is in an even stronger position as it looks to become more than just a 1Moz per annum producer. Equinox is proceeding cautiously and isn’t getting ahead of itself. As far as remuneration, one of our favourite elements of the story, Equinox continues with its remuneration policy of mainly shares as opposed to a conventional cash salary. Milau claims he hasn’t cashed any in yet.

Interview Highlights:

1:59 – Company Overview
3:17 – Targets Set & Achieved
8:57 – Running a Large Company: How are They Monitoring Spending?
12:49 – Market and Gold Price: Will it Continue?
15:07 – Cost of Production: No Mention of AISC in the Presentation
16:29 – A Means of Being Profitable
19:54, 27:11 – Lessons Learned and Moving Forwards: How Will They Grow the Business?
26:03 – Remuneration: Any Changes?

Company page: https://www.equinoxgold.com/

Matthew Gordon: Hello Christian, how are you, Sir?

Christian Milau: Very good. Good morning from Vancouver.

Matthew Gordon: Yes, good afternoon here from London. Long time no speak. I think when we last spoke, you were one of those tiny little USD$400M companies, right? How times have changed.

Christian Milau: Right. The world has changed very significantly; both the market and Gold, but also I think with this recent merger, it has really given us some scale that has come on the radar for a lot of people right now.

Matthew Gordon: Brilliant. Okay. Well, we are going to get into that. Let’s kick off with that usual one-minute summary for people, unbelievably, who may not have heard of your story.

Christian Milau: Yes, so it’s Equinox Gold. We started it about 2 years ago. Ross Beaty is the core shareholder and the largest shareholder. This is kind of bookending his career; building his company basically in parallel to Pan American Silver. So our goals do really create that multi-asset, multi-jurisdiction, larger cap, eventually, investable Gold company that will see through many cycles. We started in Brazil and in California with now two operating mines and a third one being built, being Castle Mountain. And then, with this recent merger here, we are going to add a large mine in Mexico, in Los Filos, and then as well, another three operating mines in Brazil with a fourth one to be built. So, we will have 6 operating mines and 4 growth or development projects with 600,000oz or 700,000oz in annual production now, going towards 1Moz in the next couple of years as we build our profile and portfolio of the company. So really going from, you know, as you said, smaller cap, mid-cap space into that good size mid-cap, to maybe even the lower end of a larger cap space.

Matthew Gordon: Okay. Thanks for that summary and we will get into some of those moving parts in a second. I remember when we talked, as I said, you were only a USD$400M company, but some of the things which we quite liked at the time were the fact that you guys were taking very  small remuneration packages in terms of salaries etc, but you were taking a lot of this in shares. You laid out your plans for us then and you seemed to have delivered those so that is all positive. And I think with Mr Beaty on board, and you talked about Mudabala  as well; there’s potential there. Those things have come on board, Ross has followed his money. You are talking to a lot more institutional players at the moment and you kind of have in a way, buying your success. You are capable of buying the success. Can you just tell us about some of the targets that you set yourselves then and whether or not you feel you have met those today?

Christian Milau: Yes. In a way, they come in two baskets: we set some targets to basically finance and build out our portfolio, which we did, we built Arizona and got it into production in northern Brazil last year and it has been producing very nicely for a couple of quarters now, so that was the first target. Second one was to finance and get Castle Mountain into production, which is basically half way through construction now and will be ready to pour Gold in the third quarter of this year; so months away. And continue to operate that smallish portfolio and deliver some value to shareholders through some liquidity and increased scale. Getting into some of the indices eventually. And I would say that we are well on track to be doing that, but our second sort of basket of growth and opportunity, was really on the acquisition front and merger front and that’s where the Leagold deal falls into this. It sort of doubles the scale of this company and as you said, Ross has followed his money: he’s putting another USD$40M into this deal at market, and you know, we continue to hold a significant portion of the shares and on a proforma basis, I think we will own 11% as insiders, Ross obviously being a large proportion of that. I think that our next closest peer in the 500Moz to 200Moz per year production range is about 1.7%, is what I’ve heard from a couple of commentators. So, really differentiates people. This is long-term business with a long-term course of owner-managers.

Matthew Gordon: Yes. That’s absolutely the case. You set that out at the time and I’m glad to see that continues to be the case today. But can you tell me about some of the targets you have set yourself and why you have set yourself those targets? For instance, you have obviously got a greater institutional shareholder, the Register is much more institutionalised. Why was that important to you?

Christian Milau: Yes, I mean I think the capital pools out there, certainly sit the larger ones in institutional hands and a lot of our peers, and certainly in the USD$1Bn to USD2Bn market-cap sort of range, you know, they are heavily supported by some of the precious metal specialist institutions, but also some of the generalists out there, looking for exposure to Gold, particularly as the cycle turns and it looks like it’s going to continue to turn. And our goal really was to diversify that shareholder base. We have been supported very heavily by the Ross Beaty’s, Lucas Lundin’s, Richard Wark’s of this world, high net worth’s. And I think it is time to also be hopefully give an opportunity for those institutions to come in, and we have seen that slowly happening and I believe that in the next 6 to 12 months, as we become that sort of scalable producer, and we start getting into the indices, you are going to see more and more of these institutions buying in. There’s even anecdotal evidence recently with this high liquidity since we announced the merger, that a few of those funds are already dipping their toe in the water.

Matthew Gordon:  Yes, I think that is the case but these funds have thresholds that you need to be, your share price needs to be over USD$1, or USD$5, or USD$10 for them to come and play. But you mentioned the indices there. That is a game-changer. You now, well, once the Leagold deal goes through, I think you are waiting to hear from the Mexicans as to whether or not that will happen. Was that a big target that you set yourselves back in August, September time when you were looking at, you know, how do you advance this thing?

Christian Milau: Yes, certainly as Equinox Gold, one of our targets was to get into the indices and on a stand alone basis, I know Leagold had the same target in the sense we were a similar size. By getting our assets into production, doing some exploration, continuing to build up our portfolio; both of us and on an individual basis, we were very close and on the cusp of that. You know, needing daily liquidity was probably the key threshold for both of us to meet. We were both doing give or take, maybe USD$1M, maybe up to USD$2M a day on occasions, and now since the merger has happened, you know, quite often we have been doing USD$10 to USD$20M a day. Which is a huge step change and that kind of threshold has really opened the eyes of a lot of larger investors and certainly, we have talked to Joe Foster in New York, who runs VanEck and who potentially could be the largest, or the second largest shareholder in the next 6 months as we come into the indices.

Matthew Gordon:  So it is nothing short of good news all around and when you close the Leagold deal, life is great. I’ve looked at you share price, obviously, like a lot of producers, in August your share price went up, which is great news and the announcement of the potential of the deal around December time, you saw another big spike. So that’s fantastic. So I want to talk to you today about running big companies because, as you know, with size you get cost savings but you also see companies get a little bit lazy, they get a bit fat, they get a bit casual about it because times are good, there is a lot of cash around. And we have seen the industry is littered with such stories. So what are you guys doing? What’s the plan here? Are you going to continue; you want to get to this million oz production a year, which is a great threshold to aim for; very few companies, very rarefied air. But do you feel that with that comes a responsibility to look after the pennies, as it were? Because margins start getting eroded. You are a bulk, low margin business, so how do you, or as a company look at that?

Christian Milau: Yes, I think you are absolutely right and one of those keys is not to lose that focus as you grow. Part of it is about building a culture and a support base that has got that entrepreneurial spirit and flare that continues on. And again, having that largest shareholder being the chairman and sitting on the boardroom table does focus the mind in a sense. And owing shares ourselves: we have been through this a few times before and you learn some lessons along the way. When we looked at this deal, this merger, we set ourselves some targets here, a certain level of synergies to have some cost discipline in it. I think we set a reasonably low threshold because we wanted to be able to deliver on it. And we will look at cost-savings of corporates and in-country levels. There are going to be purchasing synergies. There’s obviously going to be the cost of capital savings and I think that the announcing of the refinancing on the back of this deal already shows that savings potential will come through on day 1.

All the global banks are coming in and reducing the cost of capital. Mudabala continues to support as well. And Ross has been investing at market – no discount, so I can say that we are already showing some of the potential synergies that just will be basically brought into place as soon as we close in probably late February.

Matthew Gordon: Can you just share with us some of those variables? Okay, the cost of capital is usually one of the most single expensive components, you know, that companies have to endure. What are the other areas in terms of the savings you talk about with the completion of this merger and obviously earlier mergers?

Christian Milau: Yes. When we announced this, this was at market, nil-premium merger. In the last year, I think there have been two of them: us and Barrick and Rangold. And both of us were up almost 30% within the first month, so the reaction has been very good. The way we looked at was that neither side was giving away or taking a premium. We were both getting the upside and sharing in it. And I think the synergies required were not necessarily, they don’t have to be large. And what we have articulated is, you know, up to $10M of synergies, I believe there’s probably more there in the mid-term, but you are certainly going to be having two head offices in Vancouver combing into one so there will be I guess, fortunately, some opportunity there to combine and use the best skillsets of both parties.  In Belo in Brazil, we will be combining offices and using the best skillsets there. We’ve got actually the extra scale there now in Brazil and we will be looking at saving on purchasing. And interestingly, Neil Woodyer, he will be the CEO, and I’ll be supporting him here. We did this together in Africa; we sort of went from 1 mine up to 4 or 5. You start getting your purchasing synergies, your scale and your ability to leverage profits, and then there’s the cost of capital savings on the side.

Matthew Gordon: Right. But there’s a couple of things that you can’t control which will impact you hugely. One is obviously spot price for Gold – what’s it actually doing in the market place. And the second thing being that you are a bulk, low-grade operator here, I think your grades with some of these acquisitions, we were talking about 0.3 when we talked last. Obviously, they have gone up a bit so that gives you a bit more room to make a bit more money, but those two components, you have got to closely, well, I suppose with the price of Gold, you can only understand it and have a view in the future. Do you have a view on how long this price is going to sustain for? Let’s start with that one.

Christian Milau: Yes, I guess part of our theory and thesis here is, I know that Ross uses a baseball analogy but in the fourth of 9 innings, you are still in the first part of this cycle turn. You know, Gold has had a decent run, I’d say that it has probably run a little faster than I expected at this stage. We are preparing the business to see through the cycles. We don’t believe it is one way and it only goes up. We think we are in the early stages of this turn here; there are still USD$17Tr of negative yielding debt out there. Stock markets are still doing well, generally. Global growth is slowing a bit. It’s lining up fairly nicely for things like Gold and other commodities generally.  I think our business is going to have the leverage and the ability to take advantage of that Gold price, but it doesn’t need it. We will manage the costs. Particularly at the moment, you are not seeing a lot of inflation coming through in terms of imports for our business at the moment. So you know, it has been a fairly nice and steady environment on that front.

Matthew Gordon:  What do you mean you don’t need it? Everyone wants to make as much money as they can, don’t they? When you say you don’t need it..?

Christian Milau: I guess when you see what has happened in the past in a few of the cycles, if Gold runs up quickly, you tend to see everyone kind of saying,  I remember when I was working in Africa; everyone is making ‘super profits’ which may or may not be the case, Governments tend to want a bigger piece of the pie, employees obviously want more of it, communities do. And the problem is that they don’t recognise that quite often, the oil prices are going up, the input cost is going up, the labour costs are going up. So margins tend to expand and contract as the Gold price moves up. And they do widen when the Gold price moves up but it’s not just a linear relationship where if the Gold price moves up, your costs stay flat. Quite often they move somewhat in tandem, although I agree that your margins can widen if the price goes up. So a steady increase that is slowly happening or managed rather than some spike because of some event or incident is much better for the industry.

Matthew Gordon: Okay, so Christian, let’s talk about the converse there, let’s talk about the bit which you can control to a large degree, which is the cost. So you have got this kind of low-grade ore but it is quite similar across all of your projects? That is the style of ore that you are going to be mining? So how do you keep that under control? Because I’ve had a look at your presentation, you don’t talk about AISC, at all, and I wondered why?

Christian Milau: Yes. I think part of the hesitancy at the moment is that we would like to close the merger with the Mexican Anti-Trust, we expect later this month, maybe even the third week, then we can actually put out combined guidance. We want to be cautious here: theoretically, we shouldn’t be putting out some kind of combined guidance when it’s only been a closed deal. But I think people can see from our prior years’ production and costs, how both sets of assets have performed, you get a good idea, you can see our rough production levels at the mine sites. You can see our All In Sustaining Costs of the mine sites and analysts do a good job of covering us; I think we have 6 or 8 in total and 6 in common between the two. As soon as we close, we can then put out something fairly quickly thereafter that’s on a combined basis and is going to allow us combined board management to get behind it but it’s just a few days too early right now to put that out.

Matthew Gordon: Okay. Fair enough. Now I used the phrase earlier which was, ‘buying success’.  You are buying ounces, okay? You are building this into a large producer and I guess what people are going to be very keen to understand is, are you going to be doing this profitably, or is this just a case of producing enough dollars to be, you know, interesting? It’s a large machine that you are constructing here. You have got similar ore bodies, similar processes and as you say, you are very, very good at it. But if it’s low-margin, is that of interest to Family Offices? Retail? High Net Worth. Are you missing the fundamentals of business here, or are you just in the business of building scale? Again, if I looked back through history, you have got companies that have built themselves up into such a size that they feel they are almost too big to fail. But they do.

Christian Milau: Yes, I know. That’s a very fair question and comment. For us, we set a target of roughly 1Moz. Leagold wasn’t quite so specific, but we have similar goals of building a business in the Americas that is diversified, scalable, investable, and I would say that this transaction is the first catalyst in getting there. What it brings us is some scale, but really the goal of the company over time, is to create a company that, eventually. I suspect that we would sell or divest a couple of smaller assets. We will add a longer life or a new asset that will continue to improve the quality of the assets in the portfolio. And in the long-term, and I’m going to say 2 to 4 years here, we want to be paying dividends. Our largest shareholder wants dividends. Ross would like dividends like he is getting paid at Pan Am Silver and so one of the largest institutions. But we are still a growth company at this stage. We still believe that we can continue to extract some value, create some value through sort of enhancing the portfolio. And so we will continue to do that. And I think that a lot of companies have got caught in a trap of being either single asset or smaller, which I think can be an exciting story in that asset, and you can see some huge stories in exploration plays but they are few and far between at the end of the day, whereas this will be a very liquid, investable company for the long-term and through cycles. And we are not exposed to one single jurisdiction or asset that will cause us challenges if there is an issue. We can weather the storm, in a sense. The other piece of it that I think is really important here is the fact that insiders will own 11% of this which is a very significant amount for a company of this size. I think our next closest peer is 1.7%, in that sort of mid-cap or larger cap space. So it will also have an owner focus from the management team and the board as well.

Matthew Gordon: So, just to help me understand this because I think it’s important that people understand they type of company that you are or are trying to be, and where you are in terms of an investible company for them. So you want that scale. So you want to get noticed by buying these assets, you are saying to me, at some point then, you will take stock and go well, let’s take a look at our portfolio here as some of these things no longer meet the new criteria for this entity, we may offload them, you may cash in, as it were, to some degree, and then go after a different type of profile to make sure that your company continues to be I guess, profitable or more profitable, the grade goes up maybe? Is that the way you are picturing it? How does this evolve, is what I’m saying? I know what you were when we last spoke in August, I know what you are telling me you are going to be after Leagold but what is the thing that you are trying to be? It can’t just be, we want to be a 1Moz company, it’s got to be more to it than that.

Christian Milau: No, we want to be one of the most profitable, long-term companies that can actually see through cycles. We are not building a company to flip it, to sell it, etc. We are basically building something that people can in invest in long-term, and when you put these two companies together, we’ve used some charts that I think are a good analysis of this: combined market caps let’s say on the merger are USD$1.5Bn to USD$1.7Bn. We’ve already had a little bit of a re-rate towards that CAD$2Bn to just over that CAD$2Bn range Canadian dollars for market cap purposes. And when you look at a lot of our peers who are give or take 800,000oz, 1Moz in annual production, a lot of them trade between USD$2.5Bn to USD$3.5Bn up to USD$5Bn. We are only, give or take, half of that range at the moment so what we are creating is something that has some re-rate potential, long-term diversity and scale and investibility, with a growth focus to it at this stage. And eventually, it will become a little more income-generating as you get some yields from eventual dividends here, and that’s when investors have asked about that capital discipline, I think is really well rewarded as well; when you can pay some of that money back to shareholders at the end of the day.  

Matthew Gordon: Right, because I’m thinking about people like IAMGold – at one point, they were USD$9Bn, just under USD$2Bn now. You’ve got B2Gold who have been through the same kind of growing pains and falls in value. So scale gives you, well, I think scale gives you some options here but if you are not looking after the business fundamentals, if you are not looking after margins, if you are not looking after share price, because, let’s face it, when you are a big company, it gets harder to double in size every year, okay. You can buy some of that, sometimes, but again, the business fundamentals catch up with you. So, what are the lessons that you’ve learned by looking at what’s been going on out there? You are an experienced guy; you have worked in large and have built large companies before. And you have got some fabulous people on the board, but what are the things you are concerned about? Or have you just been focussed on M&A, M&A and M&A. What are you talking about, you guys?

Christian Milau: No, for us, there’s also got to be a shift to continue to execute internally, we have got 4 growth development projects where we will make sure that we’ve got a tension on those over the next couple of years. M&A becomes more opportunistic in the future, I would say, where it’s maybe not as front and centre as it was in the last couple of years here. And we’ve got to keep that culture, that spirit, that entrepreneurial style to the way that we approach things and part of that is being somewhat lean and mean, but also, you know, when you bring people into that culture, whether it be leadership at your mine sites or even at the corporate office, they really come with that mentality and experience and really knowing what we are about. And I’ve seen a number of companies overextend themselves where, you know, we are used to putting together that 100,000 oz to 300,000oz, maybe 400,000oz producers into a portfolio of assets. You know, building something now that is USD$1Bn plus in capital would probably be a different strategy for us, we really want to be careful of that right now. There are some deals in size; we have seen a few companies go, alright, now we are going to take on those big ore class projects, but they don’t have the balance sheet for the capital, maybe the experience to actually take it on, and it can very quickly blow up your balance sheet. So we have stuck to our needs in that sense and, you know, adding assets that can focus on our portfolio in that, give or take 400,000oz of annual production. You know, the smaller scale growth and development projects, which I think everything that we have been building and doing, is between USD$50M and give or take USD$100M. You can manage the capital, even if you have an overrun in terms of time or cost, it doesn’t blow up your balance sheet, so I think that’s also very important.

Matthew Gordon: Okay. So who is driving this? You talk about entrepreneurial spirit, okay? And that’s an easy phrase to use but the reality of entrepreneurial spirit is very different in a corporate environment; it can get killed, it can get forgotten. People can, as I said, get really lazy, really quick here, so who… I guess you are going to tell me Ross Beaty… but who is the guy that says, you guys have got to keep this lean and green and mean for a long-time coming? Because if you talk about timelines, we’re going to talk about keeping this thing running, there’s no end in sight, I think it’s hard to keep focussed, so what are the things that you are being told that drive this entrepreneurial spirit that you talk about?

Christian Milau: You are absolutely right: Ross is the key driver of that. I mean, he has built 15 companies over the last 30+ years and you know, it’s about putting a management team in place and keeping incentivising them also, in the right way and this tends to be that long-term link to share price and company performance, rather than big annual pay packages that ultimately reward us just for doing our jobs on a day-to-day basis. And I think that that helps keep that focus. And when we hire, it’s a very disciplined approach to finding people that will fit in with that culture and that really want to roll up their sleeves and be a part of it. You know, we don’t necessarily have a large corporate footprint because a corporate footprint can detach you from what is going on at the mines; if there are layers of people, regionally or even in corporate office, then you know, we have very direct contact on a regular basis with the mines, and to be honest, Ross is on every week or two, just getting an update on where we are going. He makes a tour of the mine site. He just loves getting out there; he is a geologist by background and he loves getting out to the rocks and wants to be out in the field. When you look at the way Pan Am has done, and I would say they have a similar style, and I would say that that is not a bad model that they are looking to emulate to a certain degree.

Matthew Gordon: Yes. Has your remuneration changed since we last spoke?

Christian Milau: No, no it wouldn’t have. I have been at the same all year: I’m still at the bottom quartile and we had a good year, so I did okay this year.

Matthew Gordon: Have you cashed any of it in?

Christian Milau: No, no. I’ve put USD$2M in. It’s still there. I continue to have my RSUs, or anything that invests in a way that I keep a hold on my brokerage account. You know, I see this going much higher. Part of this is the delivery on our business platform and on our strategy and our vision. But also, I believe the Gold price and our markets are at a really interesting point; look at Gold – it has been at USD$1,550 for a while now. I would say that the average person doesn’t recognise that it’s USD$400 higher than it was when we bought the scheme, less than 2 years ago.

Matthew Gordon: Yes, well what the Gold price will do? Who knows in today’s climate, but you know, when we spoke, it was around USD$1,250, USD$1,300, for a long, long time. But again, we will see what happens there. You want to hit this 1Moz number – are you going to be able to do that through organic growth now? By getting your current assets into production, or is there some more M&A on the horizon?

Christian Milau: Yes, we do have, as I say, those 4 development projects and those will allow us to get to that point in the next couple of years. It’s fully funded as well with our new refunding of the balance sheet, which was also a nice reason to be doing this deal, or helpful for doing this deal. Both companies are lightly capitalised; capable of delivering in a methodical way on their strategies, but now we can actually say that the balance sheet is sold and strong. The data at those ratios are very manageable and low, and the cashflow from the operating business will help to fund that as well. So it really will be deliverable in the next couple of years.

Matthew Gordon: And do you intend to keep the company leveraged at current rates or is the idea, to once you actually get cash flowing, to deleverage and actually make it slightly less reliant on debt? Because again, debt can kill companies, large companies, if things turn in the market.

Christian Milau: That’s absolutely the case: we do want to deleverage to a degree. I think this deal is starting to allow us to do that. As we get through these and develop the cash flow assets in the next 2 years, you’ll see that continue. Then obviously, it moves through more steady states and it allows you to start thinking about those dividends.

Matthew Gordon: Beautiful. Christian – great update. It has been a while since we spoke. You have delivered everything you said you were going to. The tone seems to be the same. I’m excited for you guys; this growth has been phenomenal. You just need to get yourself on the GDXJ and the GDX, and who else are you aiming for? The TSX composite, I hear? Stay in touch and let us know how you are getting on. If you come through London, obviously come and say hi.

Christian Milau: Yes. Stay tuned for the next 6 to 9 months; I think there’s a lot that is going to happen here.

Matthew Gordon: Buckle up. Buckle up, guys.

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Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX) – An Exciting Gold Opportunity

A picture of cartoon gold bars.
Equinox Gold Corp.
  • TSX: EQX
  • Shares Outstanding: 113.5M
  • Share price C$12.6 (21.02.2020)
  • Market Cap: C$1.43B

Equinox Gold, a multi-jurisdiction gold mining company, has had a quite remarkable rise over the last few years. Its share price hovered around CA$5 at the start of 2019 but has more than doubled today.

We recently sat down with Equinox Gold CEO, Christian Milau, to discuss why this could be one of the most exciting gold investment opportunities around. Alternatively, you can read one of our recent gold-related articles, or you can watch a different gold mining interview.

We discussed:

  1. The Gold Market: What Does 2020 Look Like?
  2. An amazing increase in share price: how?
  3. Gold grades and quantities.
  4. A unique remuneration policy.

Company website: https://www.equinoxgold.com/

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

A picture of cartoon gold bars.

Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX) – The Sum of the Parts Sets it Apart.

A graph of rising gold bars with a red arrow curving up them.
Equinox Gold Corp.
  • TSX: EQX
  • Shares Outstanding: 113.5M
  • Share price C$9.73 (29.02.2020)
  • Market Cap: C$1.1B

We recently interviewed Christian Milau, CEO of large-cap gold producer, Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX). CLICK HERE to watch the full interview.

Equinox Gold Corp.

Equinox Gold is a story most gold investors should be familiar with: it is the model of how to build a gold producer in a short timeframe. This gold producer has had a remarkable rise over the past 18 months. Its share price hovered around C$5 at the start of 2019 and rose to heights of C$13.54 this year.

However, this week has seen even successful gold producers, like Equinox Gold, have their share prices brought to a shuddering halt, and even drop back. Equinox Gold’s share price has fallen this week alone from C$13.34 to C$9.73; this has been a truly extraordinary and noteworthy week of panic selling of a commodity that has been traditionally positioned and heralded as a ‘safe haven.’ It seems that truism isn’t true.

Let’s try to look to the world before the Coronavirus and hopefully the world after it. I know that may seem like a casual, almost dismissive statement, but it is not meant to be. There is clearly great global concern about the near-term impact on society and business, and possibly in the light of the current media spotlight, a normal future seems implausible, but history tells us that we humans persevere, adapt and survive, and we will again.

So let’s look to the future, if we may.

Equinox Gold was listed around 2 years ago, with the prodigious Ross Beaty as the main shareholder; if you are familiar with the school of ‘Bet on Beaty Bets’ investing, it will be no surprise to see Equinox Gold doing so well. Its founding goal was to become a multi-jurisdiction, large-cap, low-grade, bulk-tonage gold mining company.

Assets

Equinox Gold has a promising portfolio of assets:

  1. Mesquite Gold Mine, a Californian project producing 125,000-145,000oz gold per annum with an AISC of US$930-$980/oz and a grade of 0.46g/t gold (exclusive of reserves)
  2. Aurizona Gold Mine, a Brazilian gold mine producing 75,000-90,000oz per annum with inferred Resources of 1.1Moz @ 1.98g/t gold (with an exploration upside) and an AISC of US$950-$1,025
  3. Castle Mountain Gold Mine, an under-construction gold mine with a PFS and production potential of 200,000oz per annum and a 16-year life-of-mine (LOM)
  4. A copper-focussed spin-out operation in the form of Solaris Copper Inc.

Our Interview

Milau covered a variety of topics. Equinox Gold’s targets have been well and truly delivered. Mesquite and Aurizona are up and running, producing at a reasonable scale with a good AISC. Castle Mountain should be ready to rock by Q3/20.

These have not been without their hiccups; after all, this is mining. Equinox Gold has, however, kept things simple and it is reaping the rewards. The portfolio is focussed. The management team has created a relentless mining business for low-grade bulk processing. Equinox Gold’s message is simple: make strong acquisitions, then get that gold out of the ground!

Equinox Gold's Corp.'s share price for the last year.
Despite a late tail-off, what a year for Equinox Gold!

Equinox Gold has a significant 11% insider ownership: another reassuring fact for investors. The management team has succeeded in attracting a diversified shareholder base since the last time we spoke with Milau.

Milau also discussed Equinox Gold’s spending strategy and his view on the gold macro environment. What does the outlook for the gold market look like for 2020? He states this is only the beginning of this new gold cycle. He is conscious it won’t all be plain sailing in the gold sector, but this is in the early stage of the turn (US$17T of negative-yielding debt, solid stock markets and slowing global growth). Is the best really yet to come? Gold investors will be breathing heavily and hoping for more.

Equinox Gold has no intention of being taken out, and why would it? The company plans to become a long-term investment opportunity that can last through several cycles. Equinox Gold has had great momentum for those seeking fast returns, but it now also looks supremely appealing to those looking for steadier returns. Could it be a dividend payer in the next 2-3 years? Milau suggest so, but that is a long way away, and markets change. Let’s focus on today. Can that share price continue to grow at the same rate?  

As a gold producer, Equinox Gold has the rising gold price working in its favour, should the price continue on its recent trajectory. Can the management team start to accumulate cash, given they have been buying ounces in the ground? We appreciate Milau’s pragmatic take on gold margins: Equinox Gold is not rushing to produce and there is no spike in production. Equinox Gold is managing a steady, structured increase. However, the markets often don’t reward pragmatism and sensible management decisions. They often prefer pie in the sky stories of twenty-baggers and miracle proprietary technology. The fact the market has latched onto Equinox Gold with such excitement is a testament to just how solid this project seems to be. 1Moz per annum of gold is impressive, but this degree of investor enthusiasm is rare to say the least.

To continue on this trend of growth, Equinox Gold will proceed to develop its current assets and look at new acquisitions when the time is right. On the 28th January, Equinox Gold announced a merger with Leagold Mining Corporation that will combine the companies, ‘creating one of the world’s top gold producing companies operating entirely in the Americas.’ This should position Equinox Gold even more strongly.

one of the world’s top gold producing companies operating entirely in the Americas

Equinox Gold has recently received Serabi Gold’s C$14M payment for the Coringa project in Brazil, as it targets becoming a 1Moz per annum producer.

As far as remuneration, one of our favourite elements of the story, Milau stated that Equinox Gold has continued with its directors’ remuneration policy of paying them mainly shares. Milau claims he hasn’t cashed any in yet, but we can’t see any reason why he’d want to.

A photo of a Seal with a sign saying 'yes.' The words seal of approval are written underneath.
We Are Big Fans Of The Equinox Story

Equinox Gold is an anomaly. It is an abnormal story of inspired management, favourable prices, excellent assets and, as is always the case in mining, luck. We expect Equinox Gold to keep delivering on its promises for shareholders; the team has shown us nothing to make us believe otherwise. No, they don’t pay us and no we don’t own any shares. In an industry of over claiming and under delivering, we see Equinox Gold as company that does what it says.

Company Website: https://www.equinoxgold.com/

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

A graph of rising gold bars with a red arrow curving up them.