Take physic, pomp

Before you meet your prince….

…you gotta kiss a lot of frogs (or “trying to find a junior miner bargain”)

Every so often, friends, clients, IR people and even complete strangers will tip me a junior mining stock, usually cos they operate somewhere inside LatAm. So over time I’ve developed a scanning system that lets me check out the company quickly…if it passes these tests then I’ll look at it more deeply. Today someone gave me a name to look at, and after running down the system I’ll try and sum up how it worked today

So in rough chronological order, here’s the scanning system. Practical comes after.

Who gave the stocktip?
I tend to trust some people more than others…normal, no? If one of the wiser stockpals passes me a name to look at with a bare minimum of info, I’ll look it over no doubts. If it’s the “psst, wanna buy a goldmine” variety, goodbye. Between those two poles there are a lot of colour shades, and it often depends if I’m busy

Where does the stock trade?
If it’s one of the established markets like the NYSE, Nasdaq, Amex, LondonSE, Toronto, then good. I don’t really have a problem with the Toronto Venture exchange or London AIM either. The red flags get waved at OTC (.OB) stocks. That does of course mean there might be a real bargain hiding there, but you should hear alarm bells when you’re looking at .OB stocks, and don’t turn the alarm system off.

Website time
If I’m still interested, I’ll go to the company website. I first look for transparency. Go to the financials page and see if the share count is up to date and the latest quarterly report is available on a link. Once that’s done, there are three important things to look at, firstly….

Management team
This is the most important, and particularly true in the case of a small junior miner. I want to see DECADES of experience in the top jobs, and also the top guys must have experience in first-rate companies. If the management and directors also sit on the boards of other companies, that’s not necessarily good or bad, but the active head of the company (be it the CEO, the Chair, the Prez or the COO) should be dedicated to the business your looking at right now and not one of his or her other seats.

This is the second most important. Get the latest quarterly financial and the management’s discussion (at the SEC they come as one, at SEDAR for example they’ll often get presented as separate documents). Once in the financials, I’m looking for “a lack of red flags”, rather than actively good things. Do the assets add up? Are they hiding a bootload of warrants and options behind that small ‘shares outstanding’ number? Does the debt look correct and serviceable? If it’s already producing, how are gross revenues/costs/stuff like that progressing (by then, I’ll have a second, earlier financial open to compare number evolution etc). If I still like what I see I’ll then go to..

What are these guys doing right now? If it’s a junior miner, do they have the cash to do what they want to do or will they need to raise cash via dilution or debt? How far along the development timeline is the project? Things of that style, but this part of the DD process isn’t as empirical as the previous parts, and ‘getting the feel’ is important.

So after all that (which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes), if I’m still interested in the stock I’ll sit down and do a SWAG (stupid wild-ass guess, if you didn’t know already) on how much money I’d expect them to make and when they should start making it. Another 10 minutes, perhaps

And if I still like the stock after all that, it’ll be worth my time dedicating a few hours to learning about the stock more seriously.


So now to the practical: Today, I was told about a company called ‘Nilam Resources’, so here’s how it fared down the filtering system.

Who gave the stocktip
A friend who knows what a mine needs to look like. Smart guy, successful investor and a junior aficionado. If he says it’s worth a look, it’s worth a look. Respect given automatically

Where does the stock trade?
Ticker is NILR.OB, and OTC stock. Ugh! Not a case of outright rejection, but red flags.

Website time
Not a bad site. User-friendly, and well laid out.

Very good-looking management team, and this scores big points. My pal had told me in his original mail that someone called Len de Melt was on the board, and that had already caught my eye. Mr. de Melt has a top CV and has a good reputation in Peru mining circles. When I checked the management roster there was plenty of good quality experience on board, including a couple of names I know and like from other places (particularly a guy named Carlos Ortiz, who has worked in the right kind of mine here in Peru).

No red flags. Short on ready cash, and their main project is in the acquisition process right now, so they’re going to have to raise money to pay the bills.

Not bad. The flagship property already has a small 50 tonnes per day (tpd) processing plant on site, and Nilam plans to put a 500tpd facility on site. Good reported gold grades of 1/2oz per tonne of rock, and apparently plenty of reserves left to be proved up on the site.

So all in all, it was worth spending a few more minutes on the numbers. So the quarterly report gets pored over more carefully and the SWAG calculation comes out. In a SWAG, I always try to be conservative but realistic. Rather than step-by-step the SWAG, here’s what I wrote back to my pal (edited slightly to protect the innocent)

The terms of the deal to buy the new mine mean they pay 250k on the 25th March, $500k in July 2008 and $750k in February 2009. Right now they have $176k at bank. So you can bet your sweet bippy they are diluting to pay for the purchase.

They have a 50tpd operation there. That may be true, but betcha the cash costs are way high too (i know these piddly peru mines). The plan is obviously to pump capex in to bring machinery up to 500tpd. That’ll cost at least $15m these days.

So let’s assume there’s a placement at discount to market PPS…say 10m shares at $1.50 with half a warrant attached. That would add about 15m to the full dilution. That’s not bad. What they aren’t telling you is that it’ll take 12 to 18 months to ramp the 500tpd operation up. Meanwhile they will be nickel’n’diming the 50tpd operation for sure. They will need more cash to get through that period…i’m going to play safe and say another 10m share placement with 5m warrants attached. So i’m going to ballpark the full share dilution at 87.5m (57.5m out now)

Let’s fast forward and get to them running a 500tpd gold operation at a little under 1/2oz per tonne (they say they’re running 1/2 oz per tonne right now, but it’s easier to pick and choose the ore thruput when it’s a 50tpd operation)…let’s go for 10g/tonne 500tpd = 5000g gold = 160.77oz per day x 365 days = 58681 oz per year

gross sales at POG $950 = U$55.7m

They have to pay 4% in royalties on this number: 3% to the mine vendors as part of the sales agreement, and 1% to the govt (that’s the rule down here) total gross after royalties = $53.5m

It’s now time to “guess the cash cost”. Let’s start at U$650/oz, cos a new operation always has glitches…then it drops to $550/oz in the 2nd 6 months of the year…avg $600/oz gives net revs at $18.3m

keeping it simple, let’s just extract a cupla million for SGA (ballpark, then take away the obligatory 8% workers profit sharing (peru law) then tax the profits at 30% (peru rate)

minus $2m = $16.3m

minus 8% workers = $15.8m

after tax earnings = $11.06m

Now, IF i’m guessing right on the share count, the cash cost, the price of gold they get at market and all the others, my estimated EPS is 12.6 cents a share. Right now the stock is at $2.16. So, what i’m saying here is that you buy right now and you will see your company diluted quite a lot (if they’re an honest bunch, which i think they are), the you’ll have to wait about 18 months for the new machinery to come on line to get the project to 500tpd, then after 1 year you’ll have a PE ratio of 17X

Not my idea of a bargain. To be honest, the company looks good. Good mgmt, good ideas etc etc. But i’d bet a full United States Dollar (1932 silver variety) that this is not the right time to buy. I suggest you keep it on your radar and think about it in a year’s time. There are plenty of other miners down here that are further along the development timeline and at cheaper and more predictable multiples

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello, you are not in a chatroom, you are in my living room. Opposing views and criticisms welcome, insults or urinating on furniture unwelcome. Please refrain from swearing if possible, it is not needed.