Kinross Gold to sell Russian assets to Highland for $680 million

The Dvoinoye asset, located about 100km north of Kupol gold mine. (Image courtesy of Kinross Gold | Flickr.)

Kinross Gold (TSX: G) (NYSE: KGC) is selling its Russian assets to Highland Gold Mining for a total of $680 million in cash, the Canadian miner said on Tuesday, a month after suspending its operations in the country.

Along with needing to comply with Western sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, several companies with exposure to Russia have taken steps to avoid reputational damage by staying in the country. Some of them have cited their own corporate responsibility standards for pulling back.

Kinross, which has been operating in Russia for about 25 years, will receive a total of $400 million for its Kupol underground mine and the surrounding exploration licenses in the country’s Far Eastern region of Chukotka, about 7,000 kilometres from Ukraine.

The gold miner will also obtain a total of $280 million in cash for Udinsk, the first project it expected to develop on the the Chulbatkan licence, acquired in 2020. Kinross had envisioned beginning production at the pit in 2025.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, Kinross had forecast that about 13% of its global production would come from Russia.

Analysts have described Kinross’s move as positive, but were wary about the relatively long payment schedule spread evenly over the 2022-2027 period. 

“We note that a heavily staggered payment plan mutes the immediate benefits to Kinross,” Jackie Przybylowski, a BMO analyst, wrote in a research note to clients on Apr. 5.  

In a research note, Scotiabank analyst Tanya Jakusconek stated that the deal might see some “credit risk” given the size of the transaction “relative to Highland Gold.”  

Highland Gold is one of the largest gold producers in Russia, with a portfolio of assets located in four mining regions — Chita, Kamchatka, Chukotka and Khabarovsk. The company is also commissioning the Ozernoe mine in Buryatia.

The company’s chief executive Vladislav Sviblov said in a separate statement that since the Kupol mine and Udinsk project were located close to its existing operations, Highland Gold expected operational, logistical and management synergies.

The transaction, subject to Moscow’s approval and the finalization of certain ancillary agreements, is the first sale of a Western company’s assets in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine.