Something has changed recently, however. A new divergence has arisen in the precious metals equity market – a subtle, but plainly evident shift in recent daily performance.
In many of the funds we manage at Sprott, we’ve transitioned out of gold bullion and into gold equities to better participate in the continuation of the trend indicated above. As long-time investors in this space, we can assure you that the production growth rates will be significantly higher in the junior stocks. They continue to trade at discounted valuations, and we believe they offer the best opportunity to build exposure. Margin expansion is the key metric for this industry, and the market is now acknowledging the miners’ improvement in margin capture – which has occurred despite the increase in capital and operating costs
We meet with a large number of gold mining management teams on a weekly basis, and based on those meetings, it appears that the average cost of producing an ounce of gold today, all in, is now around $800. At $1,200 gold, these companies can capture roughly $400 in EBITDA. At $1800 gold, however, they’re now capturing $1,000 per ounce in EBITDA – representing an increase of 150% in profit margin. That is significantly far above what any other equity sector has been able to generate over the past year.
Amazingly – despite this new reality for gold producers, we are still finding opportunities in select gold and silver mining companies that can be purchased today at 2-3 times their 2-year-out forecasted cash flow. These multiples are based on the current gold and silver spot price, and if these companies hit their production targets, and gold and silver continue their appreciation – we may discover that these stocks were trading at less than 1 times 2-year-out cash flow today. Having been in the business for many years, we can tell you that investing in a stock at 1 times 2-year-out cash flow tends to be a winning proposition – let alone in an industry that literally mines the world’s reserve currency out of the ground.
Equity investors shouldn’t let $1800 gold dissuade them from participating in precious metals equities. The world is still dramatically underexposed to gold, and we firmly believe it should represent a higher percentage of investors’ total portfolios today. The fact remains that both gold and silver continue to trade well below their inflation-adjusted highs in nominal terms, and the market is now beginning to acknowledge the profit potential that precious metals equities offer at today’s bullion prices. We believe the equities will offer more upside than the bullion over time. Many of the smaller names are well priced and have momentum behind them. The prospects for gold stocks look extremely bright.