[Uranium] Portfolio Update: Cameco de Mayo or Día de Muertos?
Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Since my last uranium portfolio update on Feb 10th 2022 a lot has happened in the uranium sector. Although the price performance was discouraging, the fundamentals of the uranium investment thesis kept stacking up.
On May 5th uranium investors renamed Cinco de Mayo to Cameco de Mayo as the Cameco Q1 earnings call was held on that day. As one of the few western uranium producers Cameco is the leader in this small sector and the statements in the earnings calls usually set sentiment for the months to come. The call displayed the confidence of the Cameco team very well. Uranium equities directly started to move for the first minutes of the trading session, but were torn down by the overall stock market crashing. In a sense Cameco de Mayo turned into Día de Muertos. As a speculator looking for an asymmetric trade, the volatility is the price you pay to achieve multi baggers.
In this blog post I will share my macro thoughts and give an update on my uranium portfolio. My current uranium portfolio includes the following stocks:
Aura Energy (ASX:AEE)
Bannerman Energy (ASX:BMN)
Deep Yellow (ASX:DYL)
Silex Systems (ASX:SLX)
CGN Mining (HKG:1164)
Baselode Energy (CVE:FIND)
92 Energy (ASX:92E)
Thor Mining (ASX:THR)
Macro thoughts "Cameco de Mayo"
Cameco's (NYSE:CCJ) Q1 earnings call on May 5th gave a lot of insights into the current state of affairs in the nuclear fuel industry and where utility buyers likely are in their buying process. For more details about the earnings call I would recommend watching Terry Papineau's recap on the THE EARLY STAGE INVESTOR YouTube channel.
Source: THE EARLY STAGE INVESTOR
My key takeaways were
They iterated on taking a balanced and disciplined approach to their supply decisions and not flood the market with supply
The growing, long term bifurcation of the nuclear energy market "From our perspective, it's not a matter of if western markets will turn their backs on Russian nuclear fuel supply, but rather when and how quickly. Of course, there's also the risk that Russia preempts any actions by Western markets imposing its own voluntary export restraints, in retaliation for economic and other sanctions, as we've seen them do with gas in parts of Europe." Tim Gitzel, CEO
A concept that was mentioned during the earnings call is underfeeding / overfeeding. "What that means is that excess capacity that had been used for underfeed is probably now gone. And as a result, a plant that's completely full, the only way to get more enrichment out of it is to move to what you call overfeed and overfeed is just code for you need more feed. You need more uranium that's converted into UF6 coming into the enrichment space. And the great news is this Russian replacement demand, we've seen the push now in enrichment. We haven't yet seen it fully in conversion, let alone uranium." Grant Isaac, CFO
The concept of underfeeding/overfeeding is explained by Mark Nelson very well in the interview I did with him
Uranium is roughly 25% of my overall equity portfolio. Centrus Energy was the first uranium stock (I don't hold that stock anymore) I bought in the summer 0f 2020. The majority of my shares in the other titles were bought throughout 2021/2022, when I had cash or saw buying opportunities and sold other stocks to buy more uranium shares. As I averaged up along the way you will see that I am underwater in some titles. This doesn't worry me as we had an overall pullback and as Rick Rule likes to say "an asset that I would like to own more of, that falls in price by 50% is in turn exactly 50% more attractive to me".
As you will clearly see, I over weighted 2 explorers with projects in the Athabasca Basin (Canada) who already had successful drill holes and developers with assets in Africa. This is due to the fact that I like the risk/reward these stocks offer (See position on the Lassonde curve).
Source: Nicholas LePan
Based on the fundamentals of the sector improving, I continued to increase the risk exposure by adding more funds to the two greenfield exploration stocks I am holding. As pointed out last time, I am in the phase of the cycle where I aggressively scale into the stocks I deem winners with extra cash or funds I got by selling the uranium stocks I don't have as high a conviction in. I want to be as concentrated as possible. Some deem this too risky, but after nearly 2 years in the sector, I know these companies quite well and can judge which ones should perform well over time.
In addition, by having more money in certain names, I don't necessarily need a 100 bagger to achieve outsized gains. Even though stocks like 92E & FIND have the potential to be a 100 bagger from current levels, I don't want to be dependent on that.
What I sold since my last update, including total return:
LEU: +194% (incl the sell orders from 2021)
What I bought since my last update:
In multiple tranches I added to my following holdings: SLX, FIND, 92E, THR & BMN
Discussion of companies
Aura is developing the TIRIS uranium project in Mauritania. In addition, there are also vanadium resources at TIRIS, plus AEE also owns the 15.1 bn pounds HÄGGÅN vanadium project (including potash/SoP by product) in Sweden and a gold asset. The probability of Tiris going into production this cycle is very high and the spin out of the gold and vanadium assets offers additional value creation for shareholders.
On March 14th 2022 Aura announced raising A$8.8M in via a placement to sophisticated and institutional investors. Funds will be used to advance the Tiris uranium project
Project, including completion of the planned Resource Enhancement Program and
commencement of engineering towards a decision to proceed in Q4 2022.
Other interesting news were the engagement of Leading consultancy group, Diplomat
Communications to liaise with the Swedish Government and stakeholders. Uranium/Vanadium mining is currently banned in Sweden. However, there have been some developments that justify at least a certain probability of the mining ban being lifted. One of these developments is the new strategic EU initiative European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) which focused on raw materials for battery storage. As this is a strategic initiative to make the EU more independent and geopolitical tensions raised the urgency of this, they could lift the mining ban. AEE has mentioned that a spin out of "Vanadis Battery Metals AB" could then be possible and create additional shareholder value. With the Tiris project on track and de-risking the investment in AEE, the lift of the mining ban does offer considerable optionality.
BMN is one of my high conviction names and is developing the Etango Uranium Project in Namibia. It possesses a World class uranium mineral resource endowment of 207 Mlbs of contained U3O8.
On March 24th BMN successfully closed a private placement which they could not have timed better, as the global equity markets tanked shortly thereafter. They raised A$40.7M in the placement. Funds are to be directed towards completion of the current Etango-8 Definitive Feasibility Study due in Q3 2022.
A well respected CEO in the uranium sector is John Borshoff, who had a lot of success with Paladin Energy in the last uranium bullrun from 04-07. Paladin was the only company that went from explorer to producer during that time. They listed at a market cap of roughly 2M AUD and 0.10 AUD price per share and evolved into a multi billion market cap company with a share price of ~ 10.00 AUD at the peak.
On March 31st it was announced that Deep Yellow and Vimy Agree to a Proposed $658M Merger to Create a New Global Uranium Player. The merger is expected to create a new global uranium player with significant scale, cash resources of $106M, one of the largest uranium Mineral Resource inventories globally (389Mlb) and two advanced, world class assets in Tier-1 uranium mining jurisdictions
Silex Systems is operating a JV with Cameco called "Global laser Enrichment" (GLE). Part of my thesis for Silex is their new process for uranium enrichment (separating the isotopes with lasers) and the other part of their business which is a picks and shovels play on quantum computing. My investment thesis for Silex can be found here.
The decision to scale out of Centrus (which I described in the linked article) was correct, as it has been crashing shortly after I sold. It is now trading again at the 2020 level around $ 18.70 with no chance of recovering soon and a management team that doesn't deem it necessary to share with stakeholders and investors how in detail they want to hedge against very probable Russian sanctions/Russia stopping exports to the USA.
During the Cameco earnings call an investor asked for updates on GLE. Judging from the answer, it seems the Cameco team is quite excited about GLE and there will be an update during the next few months. This is the relevant section from the call:
In my article about CGN mining from May 2021 I deep dive into the company and also explain my point of view on the uranium investments thesis at the beginning of the article.
CGN Mining is the only listed pure uranium company globally which is backed by a nuclear power group. They have their own trading house and are the sole listed pure uranium company in East Asia.
Baselode Energy & 92 Energy
FIND and 92E are the only (greenfield) uranium explorers I hold in the portfolio. Explorers usually offer no compelling risk/reward, as it is uncertain if and when they make a discovery. In the case of FIND and 92E this is not the case, as they have made a discovery in the legendary Athabasca Basin in Canada. Based on the initial drill holes this seems to be a monster deposit. Both companies own land that is right next to each other and it seems the deposit is so big that they are both working on the same deposit.
Both had great drill results during the last months and assays are pending. The market caps are relatively low still in relation to the excellent drill results so far
FIND: $ 44M
92E: $ 29M
Based on future announcements, the uranium price and them putting out a resource estimate, a 10X from today's level is a high probability. Based on where we find (see what I did here😉) ourselves in the bull market, 100X would even be possible, but the probability is of course lower and the question is, if by that stage I am still fully positioned? 100X from current level would mean:
FIND: $ 4.4bn
92E: $ 2.9bn
Valuations of +$2bn were achieved during the last bull market peak in 2007. +15 years later and with a real supply / demand deficit, I don't think it is out of question that we will at least reach those valuations and probably go much higher. More on that topic in a twitter thread I linked at the end of this article.
Latest announcement from FIND
Latest announcement from 92E
What is exciting to read on top of these great results is the statement that 92E plan an "aggressive follow-up drill program in June".
THR is more a copper than a uranium play and I treat the uranium story as optionality. I still keep it in the list, as they hold 100% interest in an uranium brownfield asset in Colorado and Utah.
On April 4th THR announced that San Miguel County, Colorado has approved the proposed drilling at Rim Rock and Section 23 prospects, Wedding Bell Project.
▪ Project is prospective for shallow ‘Saltwash’ type sandstone-hosted, high-grade uranium-vanadium mineralisation.
▪ Field sampling by Thor returned assay results of high-grade uranium, up to 1.25% (12,500ppm) U3O8 and vanadium, up to 3.47% V2O5 (THOR ASX, AIM: 21 July 2020).
▪ With final sign off with the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and safety (DRMS) sought in the coming weeks, preparations are already underway to engage drilling contractors, with a view to start drilling early in the US summer.
In conclusion, judging from the fundamentals stacking up, the uranium bull market is in full swing. It is important not to be thrown off the bull by high volatility. Focus should not be on the daily swings, but rather on the long-term trends and the undeniable supply / demand deficit. In addition, a trend I see online is to take the last uranium bullrun (04-07) too literally. I think this is a mistake and wrote a twitter thread about this topic (Click on the image below to get to the twitter thread)
In order to earn the outsized gains, we have to go through the pain of volatility. I will end this blog post with a great meme video. I think it very well displays the gut wrenching volatility training that uranium investors go through in this bloodsport of an investment.
Source: @UrTokenCorgi on twitter
Cameco earnings transcript https://seekingalpha.com/article/4507316-cameco-corporation-ccj-ceo-tim-gitzel-on-q1-2022-results-earnings-call-transcript
92E announcement https://cdn-api.markitdigital.com/apiman-gateway/ASX/asx-research/1.0/file/2924-02521353-6A1091583?access_token=83ff96335c2d45a094df02a206a39ff4
ERMA website https://erma.eu/
Disclaimer: This blog post is purely my personal opinion and is not financial advice. Please do your own research, before taking investment decisions. I am long the companies mentioned above. No payment or other incentives were received in exchange to write this article.