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Posts tagged ‘gold stocks’

Catching the knife with Gran Colombia

This has been just a brutal week for my portfolio.   I have been sliced and diced by the commodity bear market.

I was prudent enough to exit all of my base metal positions and that saved me through the early part of July.  But this week oil stocks and gold stocks joined in the carnage and I was not well positioned for that.

I admitted defeat on a few of my oil stocks.  I sold Zargon, reduced Gear Energy and reduced GeoPark.  I don’t have the conviction.  The second quarter has not shown the inventory draws that I had anticipated.  I’m worried about what happens as inventory builds begin.  What if Saudi Arabia decides to direct more oil towards the US?  Even if overall supply remains constant, the market seems to react with blinders to the weekly US storage numbers.

On the other hand I have held onto my gold stocks.  Until this week they had been holding up pretty well even as gold fell.  I even had a big winner in Wesdome and a little winner in Golden Star Resources. But this week the bottom fell out of all of them, in particular Roxgold, Gran Colombia, Jaguar and Golden Star got creamed.  I sold a bunch of Jaguar because it just isn’t operating well but have kept the rest.

The irony of Roxgold, Golden Star and Gran Colombia is that each released second quarter results and they were really quite good.  But the market doesn’t care much about results when it is busy panicking.

I’m going to focus on Gran Colombia right now because that stock has gotten into the “this is pretty insane” territory in my opinion.

Gran Colombia Second Quarter

Gran Colombia released second quarter results on Tuesday.  Since that time the stock has fallen almost 20%.

When a stock falls 20% in the days immediately following earnings you would expect to see an earnings miss, a reduction in guidance or an increase in costs.  Here is what Gran Colombia gave us:

  • Raised production guidance to above 200,000 ounces for the year from previous guidance of between 182,000 and 193,000 ounces.
  • Produced 52,906 ounces of gold in the second quarter up 15% year over year
  • Total cash costs and all-in sustaining averaged $696 per ounce and $913 per ounce, well below the company’s guidance of $735 per ounce and $950 per ounce

If there is a negative side to the results, its that costs were up a little over the first quarter and earnings were down a little, mainly because the price of gold was a bit lower.  But the company’s measure of free cash flow was up to $11.4 million USD for the second quarter, up from a little over $2 million the previous quarter.

Anyways those are the results.  Next let’s consider the valuation of Gran Colombia.

We can look at the stock two ways.  Either using the current share count and debt levels, or assuming that the warrants get converted, increasing the share count but also increasing cash on hand.  Because the current share price is below the warrant strike, I am not including the warrants in the calculations below.

After full conversion of Gran Colombia’s 2018 debentures (which happened on August 13th), the company had 48.2 million shares outstanding.  So at the current price the market capitalization is $100 million CDN or $78 million USD.

Gran Colombia has $98 million USD of senior Gold notes and $25 million USD of cash.  Net debt is $73 million USD.  EBITDA last quarter was $26.5 million.  EBITDA in the first quarter was $27.3 million.  Below is what the company is trading at currently if you annualize first half EBITDA as well as what it’s at based on my estimated EBITDA at $1,200 gold.

Below I have tried to work out a simple pro-forma model of what EBITDA and free cash look like at $1,200 gold.  I’m using the company’s own production and cost guidance.  They have been consistently beating the cost guidance and are trending above the new production guidance in the first half.  I’m also assuming the tax rate for 2019.

So the stock is trading at a little over 3x free cash flow using the company’s own guidance.  That seems a little crazy to me.  I’ve added to my position here and am hoping the carnage ends soon.

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Gran Colombia’s Debenture Redemption looks favorable

On Thursday Gran Colombia announced the warrant terms of a $152 million USD senior secured note offering.  Attached to the notes the company is offering 124 warrants priced at $2.20 per share per $1,000 of note principle.

Dilution amounts to 18.8 million shares.  This compares to 72.2 million shares that would have been issued under the existing 2018, 2020 and 2024 debentures if they were fully converted (the table below is from the third quarter MD&A filing).

I think the deal, if it is approved, is pretty positive.  Consider:

Under the prior share structure, a $2.50 share price translated into a market capitalization and enterprise value of about $230 million (~92 million x 2.50 = $230 million).

Under the new notes, and considering redemption of all of the existing debentures at par, the share count is roughly 39 million and the market capitalization is $97.5 million (39 million x 2.50).  The enterprise value is $202 million (97.5 million + $150 million (x 1.25 CAD/USD exchange) – $45 million (assuming in the money warrant conversion of the 18.8 million warrants) – $9 million).

Debenture Holders can participate

As a debenture holder (I own both the stock and some of the X and V debentures) I’m interested in what my options are with the debentures.

The terms gives existing debenture holders the right to participate in the offering:

Existing holders of the Company’s Outstanding Debentures that are eligible to participate in the Offering may (subject to complying with certain procedures and requirements) be able to do so by directing some or all of the redemption proceeds from their current debentures into Units on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

I’m not entirely sure how to read this.  Does it mean that existing debenture holder gets preference to convert their debentures into new notes or is this just on a best efforts basis where an over-subscription to the notes would mean partial allocation?

I’m hopeful that I can direct my debentures into the new notes, but I’m not counting on it.

Its still cheap on Comps

Gran Colombia continues to compare favorably to other gold producers.

One of the quick scans I like to do compares companies on a simple EV/oz produced basis.  I’ll do the comparison and then weed out why some companies trade at lower multiples than others.  Usually there are good reasons.

At $1,400/produced-oz Gran Colombia trades at one of the lowest multiples of the group.  Only the really poor operators that are cash flow negative at current prices (an Orvana Gold for example) are cheaper.   Most of the companies I compare to are in the $4,000 – $6,000 per produced-oz range.  Even the lower tier companies like Argonaut Gold or the struggling one’s like Klondex trade at over $2,000 per produced-oz.

Its still cheap on Cash flow

Even forgetting that it is a gold stock, Gran Colombia remains reasonably priced as a business.

On the third quarter conference call Gran Colombia reiterated guidance for $16 million USD of free cash flow in 2017.   In the fourth quarter they produced 51,700 ounces versus an average of 40,700 ounces per quarter in the first three quarters.

The indication after the strike at Segovia was that new agreements with artisanal miners should lead to more processed ore at the plant.  Based on this and progress at the Segovia mine, my expectation is that 2018 free cash guidance will exceed 2017.

I suggested in my original post on Gran Colombia that I thought $20 million USD of free cash flow was not an impossible goal.  I still think that’s possible.  Assuming the note and debenture deals go through, the market capitalization of the company will be a little under $100 million CAD at current prices.  Even though the stock has climbed since my original post, this still means the stock is at less than 4x free cash flow.

Conclusion

Eventually the note offering and debenture redemption should be positive for the stock.  But it might take a few months.

What’s tricky is that at $2.40 the stock price is right about where the debentures convert.  It isn’t really in anyone’s interest (other than the current debenture holders, though even that is debatable) to see the stock price rise too much above the convert price until the deal is done.

I’ve been adding to Gran Colombia all the way from $1.40 to $2.20.  I see no reason to take any off the table yet.  The company is doing everything right so far.  Hopefully with the new capitalization and simpler structure the market will continue to recognize this.

Week 206: The Thin, Steep Line

Portfolio Performance

week-206-yoyperformance

week-206-Performance

See the end of the post for the current make up of my portfolio and the last four weeks of trades

Monthly Review and Thoughts

I’ve been listening to interviews with traders.   I found two interesting podcasts, one called Chat with Traders and another called 52 Traders.  I go through an episode a day on my bike ride into work.

The interviews are generally at odds with my own investing style.  These guys don’t pay attention to fundamentals and they are short-term in nature (mostly day trading).  Nevertheless I have found the interviews insightful.

One concept that comes up a lot is “edge”.  An edge is essentially the advantage that allows you to beat the market more than it beats you.  For many of these traders understanding their edge; a system, a pattern, a money management technique; has been a major step toward consistent success.

So what’s my edge?

I have been pretty good about beating the market for the last 10 years.  I don’t know if you can chalk it all up to luck.  Though there is much I do wrong, there must be something I’m doing right.

I’m not going to dissect the details of what specifically I do “right”.   I’ll leave that to a future post.  I bet that if you read the last 3 years of writing you’d get a pretty good idea.

I want to talk more generally.  I’m going to hypothesize about what I believe to be some general characteristics of my edge.

First, I doubt you could boil my edge down to a single thing.  I think its more likely there are a number of small things I do right that together add up to decent out-performance.

If true, this means that I have to be careful about cutting corners.  Not being sure exactly what aspect of my process leads to out-performance means that leaving out any one piece could be critical.

I also don’t think that these tiny edges act together linearly in an independent fashion.  Let’s say I have 6 things that I do that contribute to the overall edge I have.  I highly doubt that if I do 5 of these 6 I will get 83.3% of the returns.  It will likely be significantly less.  Maybe even I don’t outperform at all.  The sum of my edge is greater than the parts.

Finally, I think that the slope of out-performance to edge is likely quite steep.  In other words, if I am off my game, my performance deteriorates quickly.

As the chart below illustrates, the degradation of performance due to small changes in edge is closer to vertical than to horizontal.  Think of the right side of the curve in the chart below as being the execution of maximum edge.  In other words you are doing everything right.  As you do more and more wrong; less due diligence, cutting corners on a spreadsheet, not following a stop rule, adding to a losing position, etc; you slide to the left of the curve and with your dwindling edge comes dwindling performance.

edge

The point I am trying to illustrate is that small deviations from what make me successful will likely result in outsized drops in performance.  If I don’t do everything right: do the mounds of research up front, follow my buying patterns, follow my stops, correctly discern when I should not listen to my stops, etc; I will see my edge decline and my out-performance will drop significantly when it does.

It’s a bit like I’m balanced above the ground on a pole, and the slightest wrong move, one way or the other, and I’ll fall off back down to earth.  This is quite analogous to how each day on the market feels to me.

Continuing on with updates of some of the stocks I own

Hawaiian Holdings

Hawaiian got hammered along with the rest of the airline sector over the past couple of weeks.  The hammering was precipitated by A. raised capacity guidance from Southwest Airlines, B. comments from the American Airlines CEO that they would defend their market share against competitors pushing forward with capacity increases and C. reduced passenger revenue (PRASM) guidance from Delta Airlines.

There is a good article on SeekingAlpha discussing the severity of these factors here.

What is frustrating about the above developments is that they should only be peripherally correlated to Hawaiian Holdings.  Hawaiian runs 3 basic routes:

  1. Inter-Island
  2. Island-Mainland
  3. Island-Asia

None of these really have much to do with mainland capacity.

I think Hawaiian is cheap in the low $20’s.  A move above $25 and I look to lighten up as I did earlier this month.  Below is my 2015 earnings estimate based on the company’s high and low guidance.  All of the inputs come directly from guidance with the exception of RASM, which I estimated as -2% year over year on the high side and -4% year over year on the low side.

guidancetoeps

When I look at analyst estimates they trend to the low end of guidance. The average analyst estimate (per Yahoo! Finance), is $2.79.  The high estimate is $3.05.  If the company hits the high end of their own guidance they are going to blow away these numbers.

I’m hoping that a combination of earnings beats and what has so far proved elusive multiple expansion for the airlines combine to send the stock price up closer to $30, which would be a nice gain from current levels.

DC Payments

I’ve spent a lot of time debating what to do with my position in DirectCash Payments.  After a lot of thought but still without consensus (of my own mind), I added slightly to my position at $14.

The stock has dropped from about the $16 after reporting weaker results in the first quarter.  The market is concerned about poorer revenue and gross margin decline.

I am somewhat sympathetic to the spirit of these concerns.  DCI is in the ATM business.  They buy an ATM, sign an agreement with the owner of a space to place that ATM into a space for a fixed period, and then depending on the agreement they either split the profits with the owner or lease the space for a fee.  Clearly, this is not a growing sector.  You would expect pressure on revenues and margins as society moves towards the use of less cash.

However I think the market is making a mistake to think that the first quarter results are evidence that this transition is accelerating.  There were a lot of one-time items and events that impacted the first quarter.  The company lost revenue from its CashStore ATMs, which has been going through bankruptcy proceedings.  They lost 120 ATMs as Target exited Canada.  In Australia, the recent implementation of cash-and-pay technology (something that has been in Canada for a while) led to steeper than usual declines (though not out of line with the declines experienced when the technology was introduced in Canada).  Finally year over year comparisons were impacted by a one-time GST gain in 2014.  On the expense side, they saw one-time accounting expenses due to the Australia acquisition as well as expenses related to the upgrade of the Australia fleet.

So I’m not convinced this is a secular decline story just yet.  The second quarter is going to benefit from an additional 340 BMO ATM’s in Canada and 120 ATMs being installed at Morrisons in the UK.  Some of the one-time expenses are going to roll off.  Increased surcharges are being implemented in both Canada and Australia.  And finally, beginning in the second half we will see some of the intangible amortization related to acquisitions begin to run off, which will result in a better income statement.  So we’ll see.

New Positions

PDI Inc

I like to find companies with one of the following attributes:

  1. A market capitalization that is a fraction of their annual revenue
  2. A small but growing segment that is being obscured by a larger mature business

I really like it when a company has both of these attributes, which PDI Inc has.

PDI’s mature legacy business is a outsourcing sales force for the pharmaceutical industry.   This is a 20% gross margins business that has seen some headwinds in the last year.  These headwinds are responsible for the poor stock performance.

The growing business is molecular diagnostic tests.  PDI entered molecular diagnostics via a couple of acquisitions, Redpath and some assets from Asuragen. They now offer diagnostic tests for malignancy of pancreatic cysts (PancraGen), and of thyroid nodules (ThyGenX and ThyraMir).

marketopp

The molecular diagnostic test segment generated very little revenue in 2014. They have been ramping up the business through acquisitions since the summer of 2014.  Below is a timeline, taken from the investor presentation, of their progress so far.

timeline

The company points to a recent report from Visiongain estimating that the molecular diagnostics market is around $6 billion and that it is growing at a 15% CAGR.

In the first quarter of 2015 revenue from molecular diagnostics was a little over $2 million.   Guidance for the segment is $13-$14 million, which suggests that they think they can grow the segment by nearly 100%.   Keep in mind that the company has a captive, experienced sales force at their disposal to help them reach that goal.

The company has significant net operating loss carryforwards of over $240 million so there will be no taxes paid for quite some time.

As part of the acquisition deals they also granted significant contingent considerations.  In addition to two milestone payments of $5 million, they pay a net revenue royalty of of 6.5% on annual net sales above $12.0 million of PancraGen, 10% on net sales up to $30 million of PathFinderTG and 20% on net sales above $30 million of PathFinderTG.

While I like the direction and I like the leverage to gross margin improvement, I caution that even with growth from the molecular diagnostic segment profitability remains somewhat distant. If they meet their guidance for 2015 they will still have an operating loss for the year.

However the bet is that if they show some success the market will reward them for the potential of their acquisition strategy, rolling up new treatments and integrating them into their sales platform.  Its not hard to see that strategy being worth significantly more than the current $25 million market capitalization.

Versapay

Versapay is another tiny market capitalization company ($29 million).  They have a newly launched SAAS offering that could scale quire quickly.

In the past Versapay’s product offerings have revolved around point of sale solutions: point of sale terminals (basically the little hand helds that you use at every shop), payment gateways for online purchases, app’s for mobile payments, and virtual terminals.

Margins on the legacy business are north of 60% but it is not a high growth business; it grew at around 5% in 2014 and showed flat revenues in the first quarter of 2015.  The business generated $2.1 million of EBITDA in 2014, so at the current market capitalization Versapay is probably slightly expensive if valued on this business alone.

Recently though Versapay expanded their offering to include a B2B e-commerce platform called ARC, or Accounts Receivable Cloud.  ARC is aimed at small to medium sized business and provides an accounts receivable process for business to business transactions.  Below is a slide from the company presentation that gives a high level overview of ARC’s functionality.

howarcworks

The company says existing offerings on the market either focus on accounts payable (so on the buyer), are geared towards large enterprises, or are accounts receivable applications for business to consumer transactions.  ARC fills a niche that is largely unaddressed.  The slide below depicts ARC’s target market:

arcmarket

The company says that its biggest competition are excel spreadsheets and inertia, for which, coming from a small business whose accounts receivable management consisted of a large excel spreadsheet with many tabs that had been maintained in the same way for years and emails sent out by salespeople with PDF invoices, I can sympathize with.

So I think there is a market here if Versapay can prove that their software is more efficient and can create more timely payments than the alternative.

What I really like about this idea is that if it does begin to take off the nature of the application could cause it to snowball quickly.  When a supplier uses ARC for invoicing, all of their customers are introduced to the platform via their bill paying portal.  If the portal is perceived as suitably impressive, these customers become natural targets for Versapay.

ARC also has synergies with Versapay’s existing point of sale solutions.  Both can leverage the same payment backbone for processing transactions.

synergiesWhile the platform is in its infancy (basically at a pilot/early adopter level), the early results show what could be in store.  As of the May conference call, Versapay had 16 suppliers signed up, 8 who are live, but already there are 14,800 buyers invited and 2,450 buyers who had signed up and registered.  This was up by 1,000 buyers in past 20 days.

The numbers of the buyers who are somewhat incidentally being introduced to the system is impressive.  It illustrates the need for quality before a full roll out.  Just as it is extremely beneficial to Versapay if these buyers have a positive experience, it will be a disaster if they don’t.

So far the early response is positive.  Two of the eight early adopters, Metroland and Teachers Life, went so far as to give positive testimonials at the Versapay investor day.  Versapay also announced on their first quarter call that they had signed up a large commercial real estate firm subsequent to the quarter.

There is enough potential here for me to take a position.  But I have to be careful.  I’ve talked before about companies whose product is a bit of a black box, where I can’t really be sure whether its going to be a hit or miss and so I have to judge it based on the evidence but show humility if things go south.   Radcom is a name I own that fits in this category.  Radisys is another, as is Enernoc.  The idea makes sense, the sector makes sense, but there is a bit of a leap as to whether the solution will be the best fit for the niche being marketed.  I just can’t be sure.

I am being careful about position sizing and will be on the look out for any adverse developments, comments or even just poor price action that may imply things aren’t going rosily.  This risk is justified by the reward; while the downside is that I get out at $1 after some poor results, the upside is likely multiples of the current price.

These are exactly the kind of bets I’m looking for, even if they all can’t pay off.

Transat AT

When I sold Transat AT at the beginning of the year it was always with the intention that I would get back in.  As I wrote in the comment section of my February post (after it was pointed out to me that I had neglected to mention my sale):

I sold the stock because I think the weak CDN dollar is going to make Q1 and Q2 difficult. They also hedge fuel so in the very short term they are going to be hit by the dollar over the winter but not going to gain from fuel to the same extent yet. The winter routes also have a lot of added capacity from Air Canada and such so that is making it more competitive.

I still really like Transat though in the medium term. I think once we get Q1 released I will look to adding it back, because the summer is going to be stronger, they will begin to benefit from fuel more, and presumably the dollar will stabilize… I’m just stepping aside until the uncertainty has passed.

With the release of second quarter results last week the uncertainty has passed.  And really, the results weren’t too bad.  Because Transat runs a very seasonal business, it is useful to compare quarterly results from year to year.  Below are second quarter results for Transat over the last 7 years.

Q2compThe company guided that its summer quarters (Q3 and Q4) would be similar to 2014.  That means that for the year they are going to have earnings that are pretty close to last year.  Income adjusted for one time items and for changes in fair value of fuel hedges was $1.16 per share last year.  The company has mounds of cash on the balance sheet and will also begin to benefit more from lower oil prices in the second half.  I believe that things are setting up for another run at double digits here.

Ship Finance

I added a position in Ship Finance after they announced an amended agreement with Frontline along with their first quarter results.  The new agreement gives Frontline lower time charter rates ($20,000 for VLCC and $15,000 for Suezmax instead of $25,500 and $17,500 respectively) and higher management expenses (Ship Finance will pay $9,000 per day instead of the previous $6,500 per day) in return for a larger profit share (50% rather than 25%) and 55 million in Frontline stock.

I bought Ship Finance on the day of the deal because the stock wasn’t moving significantly (it was a little under $16) and I thought the deal was accretive by at least a couple of dollars.  At the time I also bought July 17.50 options for 10c as I liked the short-term outlook.

Even though I don’t expect to hold Ship Finance for the long run, I did do a background check on the company before buying the stock.  In addition to the Frontline charters, Ship Finance has 17 containership charters, 14 dry bulk charters, and 10 offshore unit charters (consisting of 2 jack-ups, 2 deep water vessels and 6 offshore supply vessels).

The supply/demand dynamic of these 3 other industries is not great but Ship Finance has very long term charters locked up in most cases.  With the exception of 7 Handysize dry bulkers, everything is locked up until at least 2018 and most of the charters extend into the next decade.  I don’t see anything particularly concerning about these other lines of business that would interfere with my thesis, which revolves around Frontline.

As I have been thinking more about the deal this weekend, I think I was wrong with my original conclusion that the deal was very one-sided for Ship Finance.  Ship Finance is giving up a lot of guaranteed income for the speculative upside of much higher rates.   I still think its a good deal for Ship Finance, but its also not a bad deal for Frontline.  While I sold my Frontline position on Friday, I am very tempted to buy it back.

The dynamics of the new deal will lead to lower guaranteed cash payments for Ship Finance.  They receive $5,500 less for the charter and pays $2,500 more to Frontline for operating the ships.  This $8,000 is offset by the 25% increase in profit share and the 55 million shares they receive.

Under the old agreement at a low charter rate of $30,000 for VLCC’s Ship Finance would have gotten about $25,500 for the charter and paid back $6,500 of operating expense for Frontline management.  They would have received 25% of the profit of $4,500 per day (I realize the profit calculation may be more complex than this but I’m ballparking here) that the ships made.  So the total profit per ship per day would have been about $20,000.

Under the new agreement Ship Finance gets a charter rate of $20,000 per day, pays Frontline $9,000 in operating expense and Ship Finance receives 50% of the profit, which is now $10,000 per day.  Total profit per ship is $16,000.

If you work through that math at higher rates, earnings accretion of the new deal doesn’t begin until somewhere around a $45,000 per day charter rate.  Above that level every $10,000 per day increase in charter rates adds $0.16 per share to Ship Finance’s annualized earnings.

That means that at current VLCC rates in the mid-60’s, the accretion is around 30c.  Pricing the deal at a 10x multiple would mean Ship Finance is worth about $3 more than it was before the deal.  None of this includes potential upside from the 55 million Frontline shares they received.

Even though the deal isn’t quite as one-sided as I originally thought, I am inclined to hold onto my Ship Finance shares for another month or two and hopefully get $18+ for them.  I came close to selling my shares at $17.50, which turned out to be unfortunate given the down draft in the stock over the last two days.   Having sold my Frontline shares on Friday (something that I am looking at this weekend as a mistake)  I’m inclined to hold onto my Ship Finance shares a little bit longer to see if they take part in a move up from Frontline that the chart is suggesting may occur and fully reflect the impact of the new agreement.

Closed Positions

Gold Stocks

I had a couple of gold stock positions (Timmins Gold, Argonaut Gold and Primero Gold) that just haven’t done well.  The price of gold seems to be languishing below $1,200 and I’m not sure what the catalyst will be that will move it higher in the near term.  Both Timmins and Argonaut hit my 20% stop loss and I couldn’t think of a good reason to hold onto either of them.

TC Transcontinental

Transcontinental is one of those stories that would fit into the bucket of “cheap stock with a little bit of earnings momentum so let’s see if something goes right here”.  I buy these sorts of names all the time and sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t.  What I have learned is that if they don’t seem to be working out its best to dump them before they become “clearly not working out”.

Transcontinental is in a declining industry (printing flyers, packaging materials, newspapers, magazines and books) that will continue to produce a headwind that the stock will have to overcome.  While I didn’t think the second quarter results were that bad, probably not justifying the 10+% drop in the stock the last couple of days, I also didn’t see a lot in them to give me confidence the price will bounce right back.  So I sold.

I wrote about my purchase of Transcontinental TC here.

Fifth Street Asset Management

One strategy that I’ve employed in the past but gotten away from recently is the “sell now ask questions later” strategy.  If a stock begins to sell off heavily I am better off getting out of it now and figuring out the right thing to do later rather than staying in it, dealing with the sell-off and taking a potentially larger loss in the future.

I think this is a common bias of investors.  We believe that because we hold a stock we have to keep holding it until we are certain we should sell it.  But this is false.  There is nothing necessary about what we should do predicated on whether the stock is or isn’t already in our portfolio.  If I do not hold a stock and news comes out that makes me uncertain about whether I would purchase that stock I certainly wouldn’t go out and purchase the stock.  Why should that logic not work just because I already hold the stock?

So when Fifth Street came out with a crappy first quarter I sold it at the open.  On my list of things to do is to revisit Fifth Street in more detail and look at whether my assumptions about assets under management growth outside of the BDC’s was unrealistic or just a little delayed.  Until I have time to do that though, I would rather be out of the stock than in.

I wrote about my purchase of Fifth Street here.

Portfolio Clean-up

As I have discussed in the past, the portfolio I follow in this blog is based on a practice account that is available through one of the Canadian banks.  While I do my best to track my actual portfolio transactions, from time to time I do forget to buy or sell positions to coincide them.  Therefore I periodically have to clean-up the online portfolio to better reflect the actual securities I hold.

I haven’t done a clean-up in a while and so when I finally on Friday I noticed I was missing a number of positions that should be included.  Thus I added Canacol Energy, Red Lion Hotels, Adcare Health Systems, Radisys, and Ardmore Shipping.  Fortunately with the exception of Radisys and Red Lion none of the other positions had moved significantly from my actual purchase level.  I bought Radisys at a little over $2 and Red Lion at around $6.25 so I did miss out on some gains there.  But in the grand scheme of things the differences are minimal and now the tracking portfolio for this blog is much more closely aligned with my actual positions.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last five weeks of trades.

week-206

Timmins Gold: Anatomy of a Gold Stock Valuation

I’ve talked before about my “rule” to average down when a stock gets underwater by 20%.    This 20% threshold is not so much a firm line in the sand as it is an alarm bell to remind me to review my position and clarify exactly what it is I am doing.  While in most cases at the end of it all I do decide to reduce my position or exit it entirely, there are also cases where my review leads me to become more confident in my position, and where I do not reduce but instead even add to it.

The 20% threshold was recently broken with Timmins Gold. The stock dropped past $1.10 (it has since recovered to $1.20 and, to give away the ending, I did buy more at $1.10 so I am now down about 10%).  I bought both Timmins and Argonaut Gold back in October (I wrote about the positions here) as  a way to trade my expectation of higher gold prices in the near term.  Obviously that thesis did not play out the way I had hoped, at least not yet.

As I wrote at the time, my research into both names was not exhaustive and I ended up taking the analysis of a few brokerage shops with more faith than I usually might.  Well that was my first mistake.  It turned out that the original brokerage analysis was quite flawed and two of the firms have since downgraded their estimates and the stock significantly, after the release of an updated mine plan for the San Francisco mine.   In the case of BMO, the downgrade was from $2.75 to $1.50! Read more

A couple of Gold Stock Positions (AR.to, TMM.to)

I’ve made a number of moves in my portfolio over the last couple of weeks and in a few cases the stocks I’ve bought have already started to move so I thought I’d dedicate a few short posts this weekend to talking about the changes before things get any further.

A couple of Gold Stock Positions

I haven’t been in any gold stocks since the spring.  When I sold out of my positions, I gave the following state of the union.

But the path gold takes to get there could be rocky.  In particular, its clear that the market believes that quantitative easing has worked.  And indeed, the US economy is getting better.  Whether the economy, and the financial markets, can continue to improve without massive injections of money is an open question.  But until that question is answered, which could be 6-12 months away, the working assumption appears to be that it will, and that is going to be bad for gold.

A number of reasons led me to foray back into gold stocks last week. First of all, the debt ceiling appeared to be and finally did get settled on what seems to be a pretty temporary basis. Second, Janet Yellen was announced as the Fed Chairman beginning next year. Third, the latest economic data for the US economy is looking pretty milk-toasty, and fourth, the gold stocks I look at were at or lower than the levels in June and thus were reflecting none of this. I tweeted the following on October 15th.

10-25update1

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The OceanaGold Gamble

I first bought OceanaGold at $1.80 at the end of May.  I originally bought it strictly as a trade.

The price subsequently moved up and I added to the position twice, first at $1.98, and later at $2.14.  You’ve heard me say it before – do more of what’s working and less of what doesn’t.

Well sometimes that backfires.   When gold got pummeled in mid-June, my position in OceanaGold got hammered back below $2.   It happened so quickly that I did not have time to react, and I ended up losing all of my profits and a little more on top of that.

Such is the difficulty of owning a trading stock with a secular thesis.

From that time until this week OceanaGold didn’t do much of anything.  It sat in the 1.80’s, would briefly rise into the 1.90’s but never for more than a few days.  I held, not wanting to sell near the low without justification and not having the time to do the work I needed to do to get that conviction.   But over the weekend (last weekend), I stepped through their recent reports and presentations, made a few runs at their numbers, and I decided I might just stick this one out.

Two reasons to stick it out

OceanaGold had a terrible first quarter.  Costs were up and above $1000 per ounce.  Production was down over 20%.  The mines that it is currently operating in New Zealand have been struggling with costs pressures for some time now.  But the first quarter was particularly bad.

Part of the bet I was making when I bought OceanaGold at $1.80 was that the first quarter was an aberration.  And, having stepped through that first quarter in some detail now, while I don’t expect costs to drop back to pre-2011 levels, I do find it plausible they they fall back into the low $900’s an ounce.  Similarly, production could easily return to 60,000 ounces plus per quarter.  The progress made in its second quarter earnings release on Thursday suggests this just may be in the process of playing out (note that I wrote most of this post before the Q2 earnings were released so I won’t be talking in detail about them).

The other part of the bet on OceanaGold is the expectation that the company will be reevaluated for the better once the Didipio project begins to produce substantial ounces.  Because of the by-product credits from copper production, Didipio will produce gold at negative cash costs for the first couple of years.

Let”s step through this two-pronged thesis in more detail.

Production Costs should come down

Productions costs on a per ounce basis were bad in the first quarter and they have been rising for some time now.

When you look closely at the rise in production costs over the last number of quarters you can attribute the rise to essentially 3 factors:

  1. Rise of the New Zealand Dollar
  2. Fewer Ounces produced
  3. Changes in the amount of the total costs that can be amortized as pre-stripping

I was quite astonished by just how much of the company’s costs increases could be attributed to these 3 factors.  In fact all of it.  If you look at the total operating costs in New Zealand dollars over the last few years, including costs that were amortized as pre-stripping, they are remarkably flat.

Note that I did this work before the Q2 earnings release so it is not included in the chart.

What the chart illustrates is that this a story of a company dealing with cost pressures due to their local currency appreciating and the natural evolution of the mine plan with changing grades and changing strip ratio.

Looking ahead, I don’t expect much further appreciation of the New Zealand dollar.  With a global slowdown at hand, it seems reasonable to expect the NZD to weaken against the US dollar.  The fewer ounces produced has been a function of various issues that occurred in Q1.  There were issues at the Macraes open pit, at Fraser underground and at Reefton.  The good news is that it appears the company made progress on all fronts in Q2 (production in Q2 was 55,000 ounces versus a little over 50,000 ounces in Q1) and expects production back to normal (which would be around 60,000 ounces per quarter) by Q3.  As the above chart of total costs  indicates, costs per ounce are primarily a function of ounces produced.  A return to 60,000 ounces per quarter would show a drop in costs to about $900 per ounce.

Didipio

The other part of the bet on OceanaGold is the expectation that the company will be re-evaluated once the Didipio project begins to produce ounces. Because of the by-product credits from copper production, Didipio will produce gold at negative cash costs for the first few years and over the life of the mine cash costs will be substantially lower than the existing New Zealand operations.  This is going to dramatically bring down corporate cash costs.  I expect that analysts will be more inclined to give OceanaGold an average mid-tier multiple once their cash costs settle in-line with other mid-tier producers.

In the table below I have estimated the impact of Didipio on corporate cash costs in 2013 and 2014.

By way of analogy, consider Agnico Eagle.  In the first quarter (again I wrote most of this post before second quarter numbers were out) Agnico recorded cash costs of $594/oz.  Agnico’s largest mine in terms of gold production for the quarter was Meadowbank, which produced 79,000 ounces for the quarter.   Meadowbank produced those ounces at costs of $1,020 per ounce.  Taken alone, Meadowbank would be a high cost producer and receive a low multiple.  But Agnico offsets the high costs at Meadowbank with costs of $278/oz at Pinos Altos and $216/oz at LaRonde.

Looking at the latest BMO report on Agnico Eagle, I note that the company gets a cash flow multiple of 10x.  This compares to OceanaGold at 4x cash flow excluding Didipio and 2x cash flow including it.

Clearly, there is room for an upside re-evaluation.

Gold Price

The last factor that is going to determine the future direction of the share price is the price of gold.  I have some thoughts there, but I am not going to go into them in detail here.  Suffice it to say that this is the piece of the puzzle that I am least confident about.  Its unfortunate that I am so uncertain about whether gold will continue to rise or whether it will stall out and potentially fall.  Because given the other factors at hand, OceanaGold would seem to be a good place to build a large position at today’s prices.

 

Comparing Gold Producers

Every quarter I spend an evening or two going through the reports of the 15 or so gold stocks that I follow and updating a spreadsheet that I use to track their progress and compare them against each other.

I do not use the spreadsheet in the way a strict value investor might.  I do not search out and buy the cheapest gold stock of the bunch on a cash flow metric or per ounce metric.  I do look for value, but I also look for growth.  The stock market tends  to treat gold producers in much the same way they treat any other business: stocks with superior growth potential get bid up to higher valuations.  On the other side of the coin, you can sit on what appears to be an undervalued producer for a long time if that producer has a poor pipeline of projects or has no prospects to produce near term incremental ounces.

I did exactly that recently with Aurizon Mines.  I was attracted to the value, it was cheap compared to its peers, it had a lot of cash on its balance sheet and no debt, and they have a well run and profitable operation at Casa Berardi.  Yet Aurizon does not have a strong growth pipelne.  Its closest to completion project is an open pit prospect called Joanna which, while it could one day produce a lot of gold, has been stuck in the feasibility stage for more than a few years and has the worry of requiring a large capital outlay out front.  When you add that to a number of fairly early stage exploration projects the result is a company without the near term potential to grow ounces significantly.  I sat on Aurizon for almost 6 months based on its value story and the stock went nowhere.

At the other end of the spectrum is a company like Argonaut Gold.  I owned Argonaut Gold for a while last fall but sold out way too soon.  I sold because I saw the stock was priced dearly compared to many of its peers.  However I failed to adequately account for the growth opportunities.  It was a silly oversight;  I had originally bought the stock because of the low capital cost heap leach projects that they could bring to market quickly.  Somehow though I forgot about this, got caught up in the valuation and that led me to sell too early.  The stock has since doubled to $10 before pulling back in the recent carnage that has brought all gold stocks to their knees.

When I was looking for gold producing companies a couple of weeks ago I was on the lookout for the next Argonaut Gold.  Unfortunately I have not been able to find them (if you have some ideas, please drop me a note).  In my opinion the closest comparison to Argonaut in terms of near term low capital cost growth potential is Atna Resources.  Atna has a legitimate chance of increasing their gold production from 40,000 to over 150,000 ounces in the next couple of years.  What makes Atna an imperfect comparison is that most of its projects hover around the cash cost level of $900 per oz, which is on the high side of the cash cost scale, whereas Argonaut has been able to achieve the double whammy of low cash cost low capital cost growth.

A second producer that I have bought (back) recently is OceanaGold.  I have had good luck with buying OceanaGold when the market hates them and selling when the market starts to show some love.  This time around I may hold on for a bit longer.  OceanaGold has typically been one of the cheapest gold stocks on cash flow metrics.  This is because, in part, they have struggled with costs and production at their existing mines. However, their soon to be producing mine in the Philippines (Didipio) will bring about some growth to the company, and perhaps more importantly, it will reduce the corporate cash flow numbers substantially.

One thing that got me interested in OceanaGold again was my research of Agnico-Eagle (which by the way is the third producer I own right now).  While Agnico-Eagle has had some difficulties with the closure of their GOldex mine, they remain one of the best growth stories in the industry and I believe the market will come around to forgetting about Goldex and recognizing this once again.  Agnico-Eagle owns 5 operating mines.  Of those five, one mine, Meadowbank, produces about 1/3 of the production.  At the corporate level, Agnico-Eagle has reasonably low cash costs.  They were $594 per oz in the first quarter.  However Meadowbank, the largest mine, has cash costs over $1000 per oz. On its own its a marginal mine that produces a large number of ounces.  Together with the other low cost assets that Agnico has, it receives a much higher valuation than it would on its own.

I liken this situation to the one at OceanaGold.  At OceanaGold, the corporate level cash costs should come down fairly substantially with the introduction of gold production from Didipio.  Didipio will produce a lot of copper in addition to its gold, and this will make the cash costs of the project appear to be quite low.  The cash costs of OceanaGold will not get down to the level of a company like Agnico-Eagle (the high cost mines at Oceana will continue to make up too much of the production) but I do not see it as unreasonable to think they will drop into the high $700 range.  My bet on OceanaGold is that when production begins at Didipio, analysts will begin to revalue the company on the basis of a mid-cost producer rather than a high cost one, and that should provide for some upside in the stock.

I updated the spreadsheet below over the weekend.  I did not update it during this week with stock prices for each stock tabled.  The prices are as of Friday’s close.  There has been so much movement in many of these gold names in the last couple days that the prices are already somewhat outdated.

My hope with gold and gold stocks is that this move is for real.  What I think we need to have for this move to be real is action out of Europe that brings gold back into the system.  I wrote this weekend about how, in general, the turmoil in Europe should cause weakness in paper currencies and lead to strength in gold.  On Sunday Donald Coxe was interviewed on King World News and decribed a scenario whereby gold would be used along with a value added tax as colateral for euro-bonds on ther periphery.  While I am a bit fuzzy on what  the details of such a bond might be, I believe that conceptually this is the sort of event that has the potential to create a great rally.  On the other hand my enthusiasm is tempered that if nothing is done in Europe, and if the Federal Reserve does indeed decide that QE is not working (I don’t think its nearly as clear as others do that the Fed will mindlessly embark on further quantitive easing.  The Fed is, after all, a data centric institution, and if it appears that the benefits of QE are not what was anticipated, and I believe that has been the case, they may decide that a third installment is not beneficial).

Below is my spreadsheet comparison.