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Franco-Nevada favors nongold mining opportunities

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Franco-Nevada favors nongold mining opportunities

Franco-Nevada Corp. is leaning away from gold, its main source of revenue, in terms of acquisition targets in the mining sector.

"There are some good opportunities that we're looking at that are on the mining side but are nongold," Franco-Nevada President and COO Paul Brink said during an Aug. 9 second-quarter earnings call.

Opportunities in gold are not as evident, with less mine-building than hoped for unfolding and a drop in the price of gold. Mine builders sometimes sell royalties or streams on future production to help fund construction or asset development to the likes of Franco-Nevada or other companies in the royalty-buying sector.

"We've been hoping that would happen in the nearer term," Brink said, referring to increased gold mine construction, which could drive activity for royalty or streaming acquisitions. "But I think with the downturn in the gold price, we've got to push that expectation back a bit."

Brink did not specify what kind of nongold opportunities Franco-Nevada is considering but said, "We're open in terms of commodities."

In recent acquisitions, Franco-Nevada focused on the oil and gas sector, where it increased exposure to revenues from the SCOOP/STACK basin in the U.S. It struck a deal earlier this month with Continental Resources Inc. to acquire mineral rights in the basin, building on SCOOP/STACK assets it already owns. Meanwhile, with stronger oil prices, Franco-Nevada reported higher-than-expected oil and gas revenues in the second quarter and boosted 2018 guidance.

Still, nongold mining assets will not be Franco-Nevada's exclusive focus. Brink said he still saw potential for acquisitions in oil and gas, and Franco-Nevada CEO David Harquail said he "fully expects" to be making gold acquisitions within the next four years or so.

Overall, Franco-Nevada targets precious metals for at least 80% of its revenues. It was well above that mark in the second quarter, with precious metals accounting for 84.5% of revenues.

As for cash flow, Franco-Nevada is expected to have more to play within 2019. For its deal with Continental Resources, the company plans to use cash on hand but also draw on debt, CFO Sandip Rana said.

But Rana said that after 2018 and completing US$1 billion in payments on First Quantum Minerals Ltd.'s preproduction-stage Cobre Panama copper mine, with US$886 million contributed as of the end of the second quarter, Franco-Nevada will be generating significantly more cash flow in 2019.

That could bolster Franco-Nevada's ability to buy more assets.