New Name Won't Restore Teck's Luster

I'd call it a makeover, but those are supposed to leave you looking better.

Teck Cominco is no more. The miner has rebranded itself as Teck Resources Limited (NYSE: TCK  ) even though the most valuable resource in the company's portfolio keeps flying out the window to eager buyers. I can't fault Teck, since gold asset sales were necessary to avoid defaulting on a huge debt burden. Still, for investors like this Fool, who dipped into Teck in part due to some promising gold projects, this ongoing yard sale is tough to take.

In the latest transaction, Teck will cede its 40% stake in the ultrahigh-grade Pogo gold mine in Alaska to majority stakeholder Sumitomo Metal Mining. With gold concentrations of 17 grams per tonne, Pogo was a precious asset for Teck, yielding $55 million in operating profit in 2008.

At a price tag of $245 million, Japan's Sumitomo is walking off with a gold mine ... one that's producing nearly 350,000 ounces per year. After ceding its stake in the Hemlo mines to Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX  ) for $100 per ounce of gold, and joining cash-strapped competitor Anglo American (Nasdaq: AAUK  ) in selling the Lobo Marte property to Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC  ) for just $42 per ounce, Teck has jettisoned its gold portfolio at breakneck speed.

Even those by-product credits are disappearing, as Teck sold a sizable royalty interest in gold production from the Andacollo copper mine in Chile to Royal Gold (Nasdaq: RGLD  ) for less than $300 per ounce.

What's left in Teck's once-mighty gold portfolio?

By far the most promising gold-related asset is the company's joint venture with NovaGold Resources (AMEX: NG  ) at the Galore Creek project in British Columbia. Although stalled by escalating cost metrics in 2007, Teck's 50% ownership of the massive resource entitles it to 4.46 billion pounds of copper, 61.6 million ounces of silver, and 3.6 million ounces of gold that sit idle underground. Galore Creek's copper resource may ultimately save the project from Teck's restructuring, while gold-focused projects like the Morelos exploration venture with Goldcorp (NYSE: GG  ) could become the next victim.

Given the concerted effort to unload gold assets in order to satisfy debt obligations, and the likelihood that a stake in the Elk Valley Coal project will likewise find bids from eager bargain-hunters, it's clear that Teck's ongoing transformation is far more than just a name-change.

Further Foolishness:

Over at CAPS, more than 1,100 members have rated five-star pick Teck Resources Limited an outperform. Whether you think Teck will succeed or fail, please come share your thoughts and counsel with our community of investors. CAPS is free and fun!

Fool contributor Christopher Barker is the commodore of copper and the Colonel Klink of zinc. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Kinross Gold, NovaGold Resources, Royal Gold, and Teck Resources Limited. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy never thought the name '"Cominco" rolled off the tongue anyway.


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