In 2017, Franco-Nevada (TSX:FNV) celebrated its 10th full year as a publicly traded company since its IPO. Despite its having been an up-and-down year for the precious metals and energy industries, the natural resources streaming and royalty-holding company managed to produce extremely strong returns for its shareholders. Yet as 2018 has begun, sentiment on Franco-Nevada has gotten cloudier, and share prices have given back some of those gains.
Coming into its fourth-quarter earnings report last week, Franco-Nevada investors wanted to see continued signs of progress and building momentum from both its core gold streaming agreements and its growing portfolio of energy-related royalty interests. Franco-Nevada posted record results for the year, but some concerns remain about what's to come for the streaming giant. Let's look more closely at Franco-Nevada to see what its financials say about its prospects.
Franco-Nevada finishes a record 2017
Focusing solely on Franco-Nevada's fourth-quarter results, the company's performance was solid. Revenue picked up 12% to $167.2 million, which was below the consensus forecast for $172 million among those following the stock. But adjusted net income of $52.1 million was higher by 21% from year-earlier figures, resulting in adjusted earnings of $0.28 per share, $0.01 higher than investors had foreseen.
The quarter's production figures reflected a shift in product mix. Gold production was down by more than 4,800 ounces to just over 88,950 ounces. Yet big boosts in platinum group metals and other minerals offset some of that decline, resulting in total production of 119,839 gold-equivalent ounces, down less than 2% from the year-earlier quarter.
For the year, though, Franco-Nevada trumpeted numerous successes. Production of 497,745 gold-equivalent ounces was a new record and up 7% from 2016 levels. Full-year revenue of $675 million, adjusted pre-tax operating income, and GAAP net income were all records, and Franco-Nevada also paid out an unprecedented amount of dividends in combined cash and shares purchased through the dividend reinvestment plan. The streaming company's balance sheet also remained clean, with more than half a billion dollars in cash and equivalents against no debt.
CEO David Harquail was extremely happy with what the company's performance. "I am pleased that Franco-Nevada's 10th full year since its IPO was its best year ever," Harquail said, and the CEO noted that Franco-Nevada "achieved record results that were at the high end of our guidance for 2017."
What's coming for Franco-Nevada in 2018?
Going forward, Franco-Nevada expects even greater opportunities ahead. In Harquail's words, "We are now looking forward to another phase of growth through 2022 with the ramp-up of Cobre Panama over 2019-2022, the first phase expansion of Tasiast later this year and the second phase in 2020, the expansion or start-up of a number of smaller mines over 2018 and 2019, and the 50% expansion of Stillwater by 2021. The CEO also pointed to activity from the business development team in finding oil and gas as well as mineral interests.
Yet outlooks for the coming years weren't entirely satisfying. For 2018, Franco-Nevada expects 460,000 to 490,000 gold-equivalent ounces of mineral production, but that's lower than the number the company just put up for 2017. Still, the company is being conservative in expecting no production at all from Cobre Panama in 2018. On the oil side, Franco-Nevada is looking for $50 million to $60 million in revenue from energy assets.
Longer-term, things could start to grow faster. By 2022, Franco-Nevada is looking for production of 565,000 to 595,000 gold equivalent ounces. Even if oil prices stay near current levels, revenue could grow to between $80 million and $90 million annually over the next five years.
Franco-Nevada shareholders didn't react all that strongly to the news, and the stock has risen just marginally since the announcement. A lot now depends on whether commodity prices will cooperate with the streaming and royalty company, because help on the market side could finally deliver some better results at a time when Franco-Nevada is making a transition toward finding its most lucrative assets and focusing on them to maximize long-term profit.