Record Is Sterling News for Silver Wheaton

03/25/2011 2:42 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

On March 23, Silver Wheaton (SLW) announced it had finished 2010 with a 9% increase in attributable proven and probable reserves. That’s an increase to a record 954 million silver-equivalent ounces.

By a more conservative measure, measured and indicated resources climbed by 1%.

Silver Wheaton doesn’t actually do any silver mining itself. Instead, it buys long-term contracts to purchase silver from a wide variety of silver mines, including Goldcorp’s (GG) Penasquito mine in Mexico and Barrick Gold’s (ABX) Pascua-Lama mine in Chile and Argentina.  

Projected 2010 “production,” based on these contracts, totaled 22.2 million ounces of silver and 20,000 ounces of gold—or 23.5 million silver-equivalent ounces. The company forecasts that “production” will climb to 40 million silver-equivalent ounces by 2013.

As a buyer of production contracts rather than an actual operator of silver mines, Silver Wheaton still takes on some mining risk. Operators could see production fall because of unexpected drops in ore grades or operating accidents. That would mean less silver for operators and for Silver Wheaton.

Still, I think the addition of these reserves is worth a modest bump in my target price for Silver Wheaton, from $45 to $48 a share, by June 2011.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this column in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX ), may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this column. The fund did not own shares of Silver Wheaton as of the end of January. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of January, see the fund’s portfolio here.

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