(Adds Newmont CEO interview comments)
By Ernest Scheyder
HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Feb 25 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp's chief executive defended the world's largest gold producer's hostile $18 billion bid for Newmont Mining Corp , saying on Monday the deal is "logical" for an industry battling high costs and depleting resources.
Barrick, which recently completed a $6.1 billion acquisition of Africa-focused Randgold Resources, launched its all-stock bid on Monday, encouraging the U.S. rival to ditch a previously announced $10 billion takeover of Canada's Goldcorp Inc.
"This gold industry needs to become more relevant to investors," CEO Mark Bristow said in an interview on the sidelines of the BMO Global Metals & Mining Conference in Hollywood, Florida.
Bristow, known for his straight-talking and hands-on approach in running Randgold before the merger, said this deal "drives a further rationalization in our industry."
Gold mergers and acquisitions have been scarce in recent years as companies focused on cutting costs in the face of investor criticism about capital management. But the need to bolster shrinking gold reserves to boost growth and take advantage of rising prices are providing the impetus for consolidation.
Barrick's offer for Newmont has pushed the combined value of unsolicited M&A deals globally to $48.2 billion so far this year, the highest since 2006, according to data from Refinitiv.
Newmont said it had reviewed and rejected possible deals with Barrick and said its own $10 billion planned purchase of Goldcorp made more business sense.
"One has to question what the true motives behind going hostile are: Whether it's really just to get bigger or it's all ego-driven," Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg told Reuters at the BMO conference, adding Newmont shareholders "don't understand it (and) don't see the value potential."
Barrick said its acquisition of Newmont was contingent on the company scrapping the deal to buy Toronto-listed Goldcorp, adding that its offer was a "significantly superior" option for Newmont shareholders.
Goldberg said earlier on Monday a joint venture was a better way to extract value from the two companies' mines in Nevada, the largest producer of gold and silver among U.S. states.
Newmont has 19 mines in the state, adjacent to Barrick's own operations. Reuters had reported here in November that the miners were in talks to combine their operations in the state.
Talks of a joint venture fell through over Newmont's demand for management control, Barrick's Bristow said on a conference call with analysts. The deal marks Bristow's first major strategic move at Barrick since taking the top position in January.
Newmont's board of directors would "fully evaluate the Barrick proposal and respond in due course," the company said.
Gold sector deals took off when Barrick paid $6.1 billion for rival Randgold, a deal that closed last month. That set off a fresh wave of bids, including Newmont's offer for smaller miner Goldcorp, which would make the Colorado-based firm the world's top gold miner if it closes as planned next quarter.
Shares of Newmont fell 0.7 percent to $36.22 at mid-afternoon, while Barrick's Toronto shares dropped 2.7 percent.
Barrick is offering 2.5694 of its common shares for each Newmont share. That translates to about $33 per Newmont share, valuing the company at $17.85 billion, according to Reuters calculations.
The deals come as gold prices are rising, with gains of some 11 percent since October.
Newmont shareholders would hold about 44 percent of the combined company's outstanding shares.
Barrick said the new company would match Newmont's annual dividend of 56 cents per share which, based on the offer, would represent a pro-forma annual dividend of 22 cents per Barrick share.
Additional reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang and Phil Berlowitz