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Shiny investment prospects are a dime-a-dozen in the precious metals realm, but there is only one Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) .
When a Fool can pinpoint a deep-bargain share price for an ultra-low-cost operator with tremendous production growth potential, and apply even the more conservative outlooks for continued increases in the gold price, I maintain that the resulting outlook for this stock approaches a richness that is virtually without peer among producers of its scale. For the fourth quarter, Yamana extracted $173 million in adjusted net profit from record revenue of $535 million; yielding a gorgeous net profit margin of 32%.
Consider this juicy tidbit: Thanks to the company's 188 million pounds of low-cost copper production to offset its gold mining costs, Yamana expended only $50 to procure each of the 1.05 million gold equivalent ounces (GEOs) the company mined during 2010! With gold averaging more than $1,200 for 2010, Yamana logged a year for the industry's record books with a competition-busting 4-digit cash margin per GEO. Yamana's per-ounce profitability continues to outrank those of much larger producers like Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) and Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) , which reported 2010 by-product production costs of $341 and $260 per ounce, respectively. On a consolidated basis, mine operating earnings still performed admirably at 44% of 2010 sales.
While Yamana's industry-leading cost structure is reason enough to propel the stock to the top of a Fool's golden watchlist, it's the company's incredible outlook for both organic reserve growth and organic production growth that really gets me singing the stock's praises year after year. The company's performance on both fronts during 2010 glistens with the promise of more to come. Alongside Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) and Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM ) , I alerted Fools to Yamana's strong exploration success back in August, so Yamana's alluring 23% reserve growth to reach 25.1 million GEOs may come as little surprise to my regular readers.
Partly as a result of that exploration success, Yamana expanded the scale of its targeted four-year production growth spurt from 50% to 65%, and now eyes massive 2014 output of more than 1.7 million GEOs. That growth will be fed by four new mines coming online in 2012 and 2013, and is wholly independent of any eventual production from the Agua Rica project in Argentina. For those who enjoy considering the very long-term outlook, consider that Agua Rica alone accounts for more than one-third of Yamana's GEO reserves, and a gargantuan 80% of the company's 12.2 billion-pound copper hoard.
While non-producing exploration plays like Seabridge Gold (AMEX: SA ) and Rubicon Gold (AMEX: RBY ) routinely see their shares rocket higher with each successive resource expansion, I marvel at the extent to which shares of profitable gold producers like Yamana and Agnico-Eagle appear to receive little adjustment from the market for meaningful reserve growth. I have previously posited fair value for Yamana at $30 per share at gold prices beneath the current level, and I for one am content to wait patiently for the market to correct this collective error in judgement.