* Sees speculaters driving Andean shares over offer price (Adds details)
By James Regan
SYDNEY, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Goldcorp's C$3.6 billion ($3.5billion) takeover offer for Andean Resources remains the topoffer for the emerging Argentina-focused gold producer, thoughthe sector was becoming more confident in pursuingacquisitions, Andean Chief Executive Wayne Hubert told Reuters.
Hubert said Andean, which is listed in Australia andCanada, would evaluate any new offers that might surface totrump Goldcorp's offer, but to date that had not occured.
"The market is certainly saying something... But we believeGoldcorp has provided the most competitive offer," Hubert said,referring to the firm's share price topping the offer price.
Fellow Canadian Eldorado Gold Corp, which was trumped inits bid for Andean by Goldcorp, is among a handful of minersanalysts have mentioned as potential rival suitors for Andean,which holds promising exploration ground in Argentina.
"We thought Goldcorp was a better match, they bring anArgentinian strand and Americas' experience and they are goingto help bring this project in on time and budget," Hubert said.
Andean is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, but itsmain asset is the Cerro Negro gold project in southernArgentina, which is shaping up to be a low-cost medium-sizedproducer.
Asked if by driving Andean stock higher investors werebetting on a higher offer, Hubert said: "There might be somespeculation to that effect. I think the market's going to havesort that stuff out over time."
Andean last closed at C$6.98 in Toronto, 7 percent aboveGoldcorp's cash and share offer, and was trading 0.3 percenthigher at A$7.02 in Australia on Tuesday.
Hubert also said gold miners were gaining confidence inpursuing takeovers of emerging producers such as Andean as goldcontinues to trade near record highs above $1,200 an ounce.
"When gold first hit $1,100-$1,200 an ounce people didn'treally believe it would stick, so they were doing businessdevelopment analysis with gold at $800 in their models," Hubertsaid. "But now they are getting more confident that this goldprice is here to stay."
Spot gold has consistently traded above $1,000 an ouncesince last October.
Other firms mentioned as possible M&A targets includeThailand-focused Kingsgate Consolidated, Adamus Resources andPerseus, with ground in Africa.
Particularly in Australia, takeovers have denuded the topend of the gold sector, leaving only a few vehicles with whichinstitutions can ride the gold bull market.
Hubert said Andean were benefitting from strong internalrate of return -- the average annual total return over the lifeof the project -- across the industry, which was appealing tobig investors.
"If you look at Andean's rate of return based on $800 gold,it was 43 percent IRR," he said. "But if you increase it tospot prices, IRR is like 60 percent and the seniors look atthat."
The deal adds to a series of gold mining acquisitions thisyear including Australia's Newcrest Mining's $8.4 billionpurchase of rival Lihir Gold and Canada's Kinross $7.1 billionstock bid for Red Back Mining.
Through its aggressiveness, Goldcorp has grown from ajunior miner with revenues of $70 million in 2000 to theworld's No. 2 gold company by market capitalization, with 2009annual revenue of more than $2.7 billion.
Its gold production has doubled from 1.15 million ounces in2005 to 2.4 million ounces in 2009, with gold reserves morethan tripling in the same five years. ($1=1.039 Canadian Dollar) (Editing by Ed Davies and Lincoln Feast)