Barrick’s fourth CFO in five years may be what shareholders were waiting for

Canada’s Barrick Gold (NYSE, TSX:ABX), the world’s largest producer of the precious metal by output, may be announcing Tuesday a significant shift of business focus towards shareholder returns, as former fund manager and current business performance chief, Catherine Raw, assumes as the firm’s new chief financial officer.

Most shareholders hope that Catherine Raw persuades management to stop prizing output over profitability and, instead, place more emphasis on investors’ returns.

Raw, who before joining Barrick last year was considered one of the UK mining sector’s best known fund managers, will be replacing Shaun Usmar right after the firm’s annual meeting on April 26.

The new CFO, Barrick’s fourth in only five years, became notorious in her role of co-manager at BlackRock’s largest mining fund for her highly critical view of most of the world's largest gold miners. In Dec. 2014, she warned the sector needed to start seeing “some really painful decisions being made.”

And while Barrick’s performance has taken a turn for the better in recent months, investors have not forgotten that from 2012 to 2014 it reported three consecutive years of net losses driven largely by write downs on misfiring projects and acquisitions.

Most shareholders hope, according to The Wall Street Journal, that Raw persuades management to stop prizing output over profitability and place more emphasis on investors’ returns:

But longer term, the test for Ms. Raw and Barrick Gold is whether the company delivers on its plan of becoming a smaller but more profitable company.

Barrick has shaken up its top ranks since John Thornton, a former Goldman Sachs banker, took over as executive chairman in 2014 from founder Peter Munk. Raw is the first female executive ever hired by Thornton in the last two years.