A Majestic Performance in Silver

While silver's well-deserved respite from its attention-grabbing rally may have some investors wondering whether the metal has been summarily dethroned, savvy Fools are seizing the opportunity to prepare for a lengthy rule.

Meanwhile, one upwardly mobile noble has displayed a particular knack for enriching its silver-seeking minions. First Majestic Silver (NYSE: AG  ) this week vindicated the enthusiasm of a market that has propelled the stock to an epic gain of more than 350% over the past year. The miner produced 1.77 million ounces of silver in the first quarter from its three operating mines in Mexico -- a 25% increase over prior-year volume -- and scored a 211% increase in revenue to reach $55.3 million. Mine operating earnings surged 397% to $35.6 million, while net earnings climbed all the way from breakeven to $0.24 per share. Production costs remain slightly elevated at $8.26 per ounce, but that is par for the course for miners engaged in a meaningful growth spurt.

In an industry dominated by only a handful of major primary silver producers, First Majestic has leapt onto the scene by commanding a formidable $1.8 billion market capitalization -- just over 20% smaller than that of centenarian mainstay Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL  ) . First Majestic is targeting 7.5 million ounces of silver production for 2011, and next year portends additional growth with a doubling of production at La Parilla and the addition of a fourth silver mine (Del Toro) beginning in the second quarter of 2012. With larger rival Pan American Silver (Nasdaq: PAAS  ) presently stymied by regulatory hurdles in Argentina and worrisome political developments in Bolivia, First Majestic's well-charted path to further production growth offers a compelling option for Foolish silver seekers.

First Majestic has not been spared from the recent market exodus from all things silver. Along with rivals Hecla Mining, Silvercorp Metals (NYSE: SVM  ) , and Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE  ) , I perceive a glaring window of opportunity for Fools seeking bargain-priced exposure for the next inevitable phase of silver's enduring bull market. For a budding producer like First Majestic, I recommend that Fools combine measured and indicated resources with a company's reserves when assessing value relative to the competition. First Majestic commands a mammoth measured and indicated resource of 118 million ounces of silver, in addition to 46.3 million ounces in reserves. The company's $1.7 billion enterprise value stands at less than 30% the present market value of that combined silver resource. Clearly undervalued Hecla Mining trades at a remarkable discount at 19.8% of the market value of comparable silver (and gold) resources, but I contend that First Majestic's healthy production growth rate places both stocks on a substantially equivalent footing with respect to valuation of established resources.

With my own focus firmly fixed upon a number of red-hot silver growth stocks like Endeavour Silver (NYSE: EXK  ) , I haven't paid enough attention to First Majestic. From now on, I will watch the company more closely by using The Motley Fool's My Watchlist feature, and by adding the stock to my CAPS portfolio as an outperform pick. I encourage my fellow Fools to follow suit.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns hares of Coeur d'Alene Mines, Endeavour Silver, Hecla Mining, and Silvercorp Metals. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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