(Adds CEO comments, share price move)
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Canadian gold miner Tahoe Resources Inc said on Monday it has agreed to acquire smaller rival Rio Alto Mining in a cash-and-share deal valued at C$1.4 billion ($1.12 billion), in a bid to expand its presence in Latin America.
The deal is the latest sign that precious metal miners, who went through an extended quiet phase amid a sharp decline in the price of bullion, are slowly coming to grips with new market realities and beginning to focus on long-term growth once again.
Last month, Canadian gold miner Goldcorp Inc agreed to buy Probe Mines Ltd in an all-stock deal that valued the metals exploration company at C$526 million, in a bid to win control of the Borden Gold project in Ontario.
Tahoe said its offer values Rio Alto at C$4 a share, a 22.1 percent premium to Rio Alto's closing price of C$3.28 a share on Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Shares in Tahoe slid 8.1 percent to C$16.22 on the TSX, while those in Rio Alto surged 12.2 percent to C$3.68.
"What comes out of this is a cash flow machine, we have a very strong unleveraged balance sheet, and we've got production growth with very low capital risk," Tahoe Chief Executive Kevin McArthur said in an interview.
Tahoe controls the Escobal silver mine in Guatemala, while Rio owns the La Arena gold mine and the Shahuindo gold project, both located in Peru.
The miners see the deal creating a leading intermediate precious metals producer, with a larger market capitalization that is expected to appeal to a bigger institutional shareholder base and lead to increased trading liquidity.
Rio Alto Chief Executive Alex Black will be the CEO of the combined new entity, while McArthur is set to become executive chairman.
Black told Reuters the combined company would consider doing further deals if the right opportunities presented themselves, but the initial focus will be on projects already in the pipeline.
The deal is expected to close in April, with shareholders in Tahoe owning 65 percent of the combined new company and those in Rio Alto owning the remainder.
BMO Capital Markets and smaller rival GMP Securities, which acted as lead advisors on the Goldcorp-Probe deal, notched wins again by acting as lead advisors to Tahoe and Rio Alto, respectively.
$1 = 1.2486 Canadian dollars Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao