Barrick boosts ties with China, names Woo Lee as regional leader

Barrick boosts ties with China, names Woo Lee as regional leader

The world’s largest listed gold miner Barrick (TSX, NYSE:ABX) is strengthening ties with No.1 consumer China by appointing Woo C. Lee to a new position — President, China.

Woo, who has close ties to the company’s chairman John Thornton, served as a U.S. State Department representative in Asia for about 15 years with postings in countries including China, Japan and Australia and as an adviser to Thornton’s JL Thornton & Co.

The new top executive joined Barrick mid-September to act as the firm’s representative on the ground, “working with the Chinese government, mining companies, investors and suppliers in pursuit of opportunities in China and the surrounding region,” Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd told Bloomberg Wednesday.

Woo is the latest in the series of hires Thornton —dubbed “the man with the key to China”— has made since becoming Barrick’s chairman in April this year.

Ever since Thornton’s appointment, intended to replace founder Peter Munk, his name has heightened expectations that the Toronto-based company may be close to making alliances with Chinese investors. Market rumours indicate the firm is looking for partners for its large but stalled Pascua-Lama, the gold and silver project straddling the border between Chile and Argentina, which will be one of the world’s largest mine of both precious metals when built.

Thornton is not foreign to the Asian market. After the star investment banker left Goldman Sachs, having played a prominent role in a period of vicious internal power struggles, he spent a decade as a professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University – the first non-Chinese to be so appointed since the 1949 Communist revolution.

As most gold miners, Barrick has been selling off non-core assets and trying to cut costs to lift flagging profits in the face of weak gold prices.

The company reported strong quarterly results yesterday that it can only hope would halt the appalling drop in its share price.

Barrick boosts ties with China, names Woo Lee as regional leader