Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (FCX, NY, 10.13) can't seem to get a break. It has hit road blocks on two recent asset sales as well as in Indonesia.
• Freeport announced a deal to sell its oil and gas assets—something the market has long wanted, and key to its recovery—to Anadarko for $2 billion. Though the price tag is not the best, it represents needed funds to pay down debt, and get rid of an expensive distraction. Immediately, a majority of bondholders objected to the sale (though Freeport has sidestepped the objections and will proceed with the sale.)
• The state-owned mining company in the Congo has objected to Freeport's plan to sell its interest in the Tenke Fungurume copper mine, to a Chinese company, for $2.65 billion, another important step in reducing debt and, again, getting rid of a troublesome asset. (Partner Lundin has a right of first refusal, but may also look to exit.) Gecamines, the government outfit, said it has the right to buy Freeport's interest (which contractually it does not) and also accused Freeport of "fraud: by undervaluing the asset."
• Freeport continues its big capital spend at Grasberg without a long-term contract to operate or license to export. Now a labor strike has suspended operations there.
Problems nearly solved
If both the Congo and oil sales went through, they would bring total proceeds from asset sales this year to over $6 billion, sufficient for the company to have no need for additional sales (though we still expect some kind transaction on Grasberg). Freeport would remain a copper-focused company, with world-class assets, mostly in safer jurisdictions, positive cash flow, and a reasonable balance sheet.
We think Freeport will pull through, and see this as a good buying level. (The puts have good premiums, so selling puts is another attractive strategy.) Should the Tenke sale get mired down, or Indonesian news gets worse, and the stock takes another dive, we would become more aggressive in buying.
Project grows with news soon
Almaden Minerals Ltd. (AAU, NY, 1.22) continues to advance the Tuligtic property, with new assays from recent drilling, showing gold mineralization outside the main Ixtaca deposit. Two drills are currently turning on the property, and more assays are awaiting release. This new discovery points to the potential size of the entire project. .
A prefeasibility study (PFS) on Ixtaca (which is only part of the entire property) is underway, expected in early 2017. The gold price is higher now than when the PEA [preliminary economic assessment] was produced, the waste is reduced (some rock classified as waste in the PEA is expected to be ore in the PFS due to extensive drilling), and the capital has been greatly reduced. So the PFS could be a game changer for this project. Certainly, any company looking to acquire is likely waiting for the PFS to be announced.
Almaden is well financed, with $13 million cash (plus another more-than $2 million to come from warrants), so should be able to continue advancing the project without additional funding. Almaden is a buy at this level.
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1) Adrian Day: I, or members of my immediate household or family, own shares of the following companies mentioned in this article: None. I personally am, or members of my immediate household or family are, paid by the following companies mentioned in this article: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this article: None. Funds controlled by Adrian Day Asset Management hold shares of the following companies mentioned in this article: Freeport McMoRan Inc. and Almaden Minerals Ltd. I determined which companies would be included in this article based on my research and understanding of the sector.
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