Thompson Creek Metals gets a huge bounce but second half holds significant dangers

08/08/2013 4:48 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

The stock market liked what it heard yesterday, August 7, from Thompson Creek Metals (TC) after the close in New York. Second quarter adjusted net earnings of 8 cents a share crushed the Wall Street consensus of a penny a share. Revenue climbed 3.8% to $117.8 million versus expectations for revenue of just $1.3.8 million. The company also said that its new Mt. Milligan mine is on schedule with a start-up for the concentrator expected this month with first ore-feed by mid-August. The company said it expects commercial production to begin in the fourth quarter of 2013 with production ramping to full capacity over the next twelve months.

All this is certainly good news for a miner that looked like it might run out of cash before it got the Mt. Milligan mine into production. The shares are up 13.6% today on the news as of 3 p.m. New York time. Thompson Creek Metals is a member of my long-term Jubak Picks 50 portfolio http://jubakpicks.com//

I think today’s big jump is a reaction to how far down the company’s fortunes had fallen. A revenue increase of 3.8% isn’t much to write home about unless it’s at a company that saw revenue fall 4.4% in the first quarter of 2013 from the first quarter of 2012. Revenue at Thompson Creek fell by 40% from 2011 to 2012.

Taking a slightly longer perspective on the company’s recovery—say to the end of 2013—shows that Thompson Creek isn’t quite out of the woods yet. The company has called for lower sales of molybdenum—this isn’t new guidance, just confirmation—in the second half of the year. That plus a 9% to 10% increase in the company’s estimate for what it will cost to finish the Mt. Milligan facility means that the company will draw down cash balances to roughly $80 million at the end of 2013 before they start to rise again in 2014.

That’s a pretty thin margin of error for a company that has had to struggle to raise the capital it needed to finance Mt. Milligan.

What could go wrong? Thompson Creek has announced that it will have to move a mine wall at its Thompson Creek mine this summer that could lower production from the mine. Costs at Mt. Milligan could take another step upward. Copper and gold prices—and with the beginning of production Mt. Milligan Thompson Creek will move from being primarily a molybdenum producer to a molybdenum/copper/gold miner—could fall further.

I think you can see the downside here—any of that bad news could lead to renewed worries about the company’s cash resources and a step back for the stock.

But all these negative possibilities also mean that Thompson Creek is leveraged like a medieval trebuchet. If the company can avoid another cash crunch and if copper and gold prices don’t fall as far as the bears now project—in mid-July Barclays projected a drop in copper prices from $6900 to $6,000 at the end of 2014—then I think you’re looking at a $3.26 stock turning into a $5 stock.

In other words, if you’re looking for a way to leverage a turn in copper (and to a lesser extent gold and molybdenum) prices then Thompson Creek Metals is your stock

But leverage works both ways.

I’d call this a high risk trading vehicle right now until we can see some signs that today’s hope for a recovery in Chinese demand for raw materials such as copper is more than a hope

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund http://jubakfund.com/, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Thompson Creek Metals as of the end of June. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of June see the fund’s portfolio at http://jubakfund.com/about-the-fund/holdings/.

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