Often, the most obscure musicians -- and not the overplayed crowd pleasers -- end up producing your favorite songs. In the investing world, with its impressive mineral reserves, Taseko Mines (AMEX: TGB ) is among the most underappreciated companies in its industry.
The U2s of the world, like Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX ) and BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP ) , will always have the undivided attention of investors and analysts. Compared to them, Taseko looks more like Procol Harum. Their combined copper production, for instance, of more than 1.5 billion pounds in the most recent fiscal quarter more than eclipses Taseko's 14 million, but Taseko sits atop a hit with chart-topping potential.
In its most recent quarter, Taseko spun a 30% reported revenue drop into an 80% year-over-year increase in operating profit, but its net earnings from continuing operations were cut from CAD 4.7 million to negative CAD 2.3 million after accounting for an unrealized loss on derivative instruments.
Taseko's average cash costs of production per pound of copper were on the high side at $1.86, partly due to an issue of surface soil instability at its Granite Pit mine, which was resolved as of October. Taseko's high unit costs are also related to its relative small size. Southern Copper (NYSE: PCU ) , for example, averaged only $0.27 in costs per pound in its recent quarter.
Under the surface
Although Taseko lacks ability to exploit economies of scale, its Prosperity reserve base contains 3.6 billion pounds of recoverable copper and 7.7 million ounces of gold. Pending an environmental review by regulatory authorities, expected to end in early 2010, the Prosperity Project will make other Canadian gold mines seem like one-hit wonders.
Moreover, its enterprise value of about $641 million is barely a smidgen compared to its recoverable gold at the Prosperity mine alone; not to mention the billions of pounds of proven copper both there and at its profitable Gibraltar mine. Even when you ignore those and the potential resources at Harmony, Taseko's enterprise value is only 7% of the present market value of Prosperity's proven and probable gold reserves.
With that in mind, it's a wonder that companies like Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) , or even bigger players like Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) and Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) , aren't salivating over its valuation. Although, much of the valuation discrepancy between producing companies with high EV/MVPR ratios can relate to the lack of Taseko's mine development. Still, presuming management's confidence regarding the company passing its environmental review isn't off-base, even Biz Markie would say this stock "has got what you need."
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