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After a decidedly rough ride through the plummeting molybdenum prices of yesteryear, Thompson Creek Metals (NYSE: TC ) now basks in the promise of smoother terrain ahead.
Alongside molybdenum prices that rebounded some 80% by the company's mid-year earnings report, Thompson Creek rapidly expanded its cash-on-hand from just $77.5 million to $482 million in one year's time. All the while, the company remained essentially unhindered by debt, leading forward-looking Fools to wonder where that accumulating capital would be invested to fund future growth.
The answer that emerged in July likely came as a surprise to onlookers everywhere. Rather than scooping up pure-play molybdenum assets to pad the production pipelines from the company's maturing mines, Thompson Creek dove into diversification mode with the acquisition of Terrane Metals for approximately $630 million.
Terrane's primary asset, the fully permitted Mt. Milligan project in British Columbia, boasts an alluring 6 million ounces of gold and 2.1 billion pounds of copper in proven and probable reserves. As a long-standing Terrane Metals shareholder, I have considered the Mt. Milligan project one of the more exciting investment opportunities among the world's pre-construction mine projects. The project enjoys meaningful support from major stakeholder Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) , and the notorious playmaker will end up with a 7% stake in Thompson Creek following the transaction.
Additionally, Terrane's simultaneous deal with Royal Gold (Nasdaq: RGLD ) for 25% of future gold production added a timely infusion of more than $300 million in capital to fund mine construction. Not precisely a gold royalty transaction, this construction financing mechanism actually mimics the highly successful "silver stream" model employed by my top stock pick for 2010: Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) .
In this way, Thompson Creek will retain some of that hard-earned financial flexibility while pressing forward toward production at Mt. Milligan by 2013.
Fools delving deeper into this Terrane transaction are likely discover an attractive bonus that has this far garnered little attention. Just as the equity markets clearly failed to take notice of Taseko Mines' (AMEX: TGB ) Prosperity project until relatively recently, I perceive a similar failure to account for the value of Terrane's Berg project also acquired through this deal. Sporting measured and indicated resources of copper, molybdenum, and silver that equates to more than $19 billion worth of buried treasure at present metal prices, this Berg property is a likely driver of long-term shareholder value that I consider to have been very deeply discounted within the pending transaction.
Despite the noteworthy diversification into copper and gold, Thompson Creek Metals remains a primary molybdenum producer whose stock performance remains likely to track trends in the global steel market. For Fools who share my bullish long-term outlook for both gold and copper, however, this molybdenum play stands upon favorable terrain.