Are Mining Stocks Oversold?

Is the mining industry being justly punished, or are investors simply overreacting?

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:43AM

Many miners have seen their share prices fall to new lows. Are these miners being justly punished, or is the market simply overreacting? The mining industry moves in cycles, and hyperactive investors can easily overact.

FCX Chart

Freeport-McMoRan data by YCharts

Cheaper is not automatically better
Buying the cheapest used car around makes little long-term sense. While you can save a couple thousand dollars upfront, chances are you will have very high maintenance costs that are greater than the initial amount you saved. In a similar fashion, buying Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) just because its stock price has fallen 62% in the past two years is a bad idea.

The market has punished Newmont Mining for a number of important factors. The miner is heavily exposed to margin compression in the gold market. In the third quarter of 2013, it only produced $105 million of copper against $1.7 billion of gold. Copper is primarily an industrial metal with relativity steady demand, but Newmont produces much more gold than copper.

Newmont's gold mining costs are close to the current gold price of around $1,250. In Q3 2013 it was able to decrease its all-in sustaining costs to $993 per ounce, but it still expects full year all-in sustaining costs in the $1,100 to $1,200 range.

The next decade holds more challenges. The Indonesian government wants more metal to be smelted within its borders. Newmont doesn't want to spend a large amount of capital on an expensive smelter, and the government has retaliated with progressive tax increases. The end result is that Newmont's future holds both margin and geopolitical challenges.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) is also embroiled in the Indonesian controversy, but its prospects are much better. Back in 1998 it already built Indonesia's first and only copper smelter. Freeport-McMoRan's mix of mining and oil and gas extraction make it a healthier and more diversified play than Newmont Mining.

In Q4 2013 its total consolidated copper production from mines was 54% of its total revenue, but its comparable gold production was only 10% of its total revenue. This is great news for Freeport, as it means that the company isn't too dependent on volatile investor sentiment.

Southern Copper's (NYSE:SCCO) focus is on the copper market, and its limited number of mines has helped its stock price. The Mexican government has raised taxes on Southern Copper, but it hasn't escalated into a controversy of Indonesian proportions with massive tax increases. The government's extra levy on precious metals will be close to nothing, and the increased tax on Mexican earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization is expected to have a net impact of just $53 million.

Southern Copper's local experience and focused asset base help it operate with an EBIT margin of 46.6%. Its concentration in the copper market exposes it to a Chinese slowdown, but it also helps the company to produce very high margins. Its strong margins mean that in the event of a slowdown, Southern Copper would still have a good chance of producing a profit.


Freeport-McMoRan EV to EBITDA (trailing-12 months) data by YCharts

Beyond stock prices
Looking at enterprise value over EBITDA allows you to compare a company's market cap, debt load, and cash to earnings. This method of valuation helps to weed out highly indebted companies that look cheaper than they really are. The chart perfectly explains how Newmont's decreased earnings make it a very expensive miner even though its stock has fallen more than its competitors'.

Teck Resources (NYSE:TCK) is the cheapest company based on enterprise value over EBITDA, but it is facing challenges related to its coal operations. Coal and copper are its main markets, respectively comprising 41% and 30% of its revenue in 2013. 

Australian coal producers are boosting their metallurgical coal output and putting pressure on North American miners. Australia's close proximity to growing markets like China and India gives it a clear advantage. Teck's margin pressures are not expected to end anytime soon, so its valuation discount has merit.

Bottom line
At first glance Newmont Mining looks like a steal. Its stock price has fallen for two years, and its price-to-book ratio has dropped to 0.96. If you take a second look and compare the value of the entire enterprise against Newmont's EBITDA, suddenly the company is very expensive. No one metric does everything, and without looking at Newmont's earnings it is impossible to see just how expensive it really is.

Over the past two years Freeport-McMoRan and Southern Copper have had some of the best performing shares in the industry -- and with good reason. Freeport-McMoRan is a strong miner and oil and gas producer. The company has a well-diversified base of assets, and its valuation is reasonable. Southern Copper is a strong miner with fat margins, but be aware that its focus on copper exposes it to a potential Chinese slowdown.

Find out our top stock pick for the year ahead
There’s a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it’s one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


Joshua Bondy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers