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Within a bull market of gold's magnitude and duration, the deepest stores of value become the veritable rockets of outperformance in their due time.
For deep-value sensation Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) , I believe that time has arrived. Yamana delivered a 48% boost to mine operating earnings -- to more than $200 million for the third quarter -- while revenue ballooned 36% to $454 million. Net earnings surged 98% to $120.7 million, and cash flow of $208.8 million permitted an increase in the miner's cash balance to $280 million. On the financial front, Yamana is a rock.
On the operations end, this is a rocket. Yamana continues to deliver steady progress toward its strategic goal of increasing annual production by 50% over the next few years, and three new mines are slated to commence production in 2012. At the Mercedes and Pilar properties, in particular, ongoing exploration results continue to point toward "significant potential" for further resource expansion prior to start-up of those mines. In the mining world, nothing delivers shareholder value quite like the exploration drill.
Drilling success at Pilar has generated a 32% increase in gold resources already this year, which by itself will expand Yamana's companywide reserves by 7%. At the Jacobina mine in Brazil, successful drill intercepts have led the company to ponder a mine expansion. At the flagship Chapada gold and copper mine, the new Suruca gold discovery is advancing rapidly, and Yamana expects to have a feasibility study complete later this year. As with Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM ) and Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) , I have consistently offered Yamana as a relative heavyweight with respect to its potential for organic reserve growth at its existing properties, and that potential is beginning to convert into execution.
All the while, Yamana continues to produce gold at costs that are the envy of the industry. Yamana yielded more than 267,000 ounces of gold equivalent (including silver production) for the third quarter at an industry-leading cost of just $104 per gold ounce equivalent (GEO). As I discussed this week with respect to Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) , ongoing strength in copper prices is helping miners with heavy copper by-product credits to achieve mammoth margins for gold.
As the cash rolls in, Yamana has seen fit to increase dividend payments to shareholders despite being in the midst of an aggressive growth spurt. As recent dividend hikes from the likes of Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) continue to corroborate, in this price environment for gold we are seeing sufficient cash flow expansion to fund costly growth initiatives and increasing rewards to shareholders simultaneously. For its part, Yamana added a further 50% dividend hike to the increased rate announced last quarter, and at present share prices this $0.12 payout brings the yield to 1%. In addition, Yamana granted a special dividend of $0.01 payable on Nov. 26. Yields, among those select miners with dividends, remain very modest, but I maintain it is the expansionary trend for those payouts that Fools will wish to track.
Thanks for the consolation prize, Mr. Bernanke
I consider Yamana primed for phenomenal (and long-overdue) price performance through the next several months, assuming gold will continue its ascent toward my near-term target of $1,500 or higher. By announcing $600 billion in additional Treasury purchases over the next eight months, on top of about $300 billion expected from the Fed's separate reinvestment program, Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve is effectively topping off the fuel in Yamana Gold's unfired rocket.
Even with the incredible run-up we have already seen in precious-metals prices, I continue to spot plentiful bargains within a mining sector that as a group has dramatically lagged the performance of bullion. I consider some of the more successful junior producers and explorers as persistent stores of value, with names like Gammon Gold (NYSE: GRS ) and Endeavour Silver (AMEX: EXK ) warranting careful consideration. For the sheer underperformance of shares through catalyst after catalyst of value creation, however, Yamana Gold continues to earn this Fool's uninterrupted designation as the singular greatest value among the miners of gold.
I stated back in August that I believed Yamana would approach fair value at three times its sub-$10 price tag at the time. That value-based assessment is independent from any further long-term price gains in the metals complex. In my opinion, Yamana Gold represents an uncommonly safe investment vehicle for gold, as downside risk is arguably very limited at these prices. Yamana has already outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 140% since I selected the stock for my silverminer CAPS portfolio just over two years ago, and I believe this is just the beginning.
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