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Why Shares of Agnico Eagle Mines Plunged 23% in February

By Scott Levine - Mar 2, 2020 at 9:47PM

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While the price of gold shot higher, the price of this gold miner's stock sank lower -- for more than one reason.

What happened

Turning a cold shoulder to Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM -1.65%), investors drove shares down more than 23% last month, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The stock's sharp decline seems even more precarious when juxtaposed with the more than 1.6% rise in the price of the yellow stuff. Evidently, the company's uninspiring fourth-quarter earnings report, a downward revision to the company's gold production forecast, and signs of disfavor from Wall Street were too much for investors to handle.

So what

Shares of Agnico Eagle, for the most part, traded in line with the price of gold for the first two weeks of the month. But then the company reported its fourth-quarter earnings, and the downward spiral began for the stock. Disappointing investors, Agnico Eagle reported Q4 revenue of $753.1 million, failing to meet analysts' consensus estimate of $785.1 million.

Gold nuggets on a financial chart that shows a down-trending red line.

Image source: Getty Images.

It wasn't only analysts' expectations, however, that Agnico Eagle failed to meet, as the company came up short of its all-in sustaining costs (AISC) forecast. Whereas the company had guided for 2019 AISC per gold ounce of $875 to $925, a slower-than-expected ramp-up in operations at Nunavut translated to Q4 AISC per gold ounce of $1,039 and 2019 AISC  per gold ounce of $938.

In addition to the company's performance at the end of 2019, management's revised gold production expectations for the next two years motivated investors to leave their positions. Because of the slow ramp-up at Nunavut and what management characterizes as a "more conservative mining plan in the West mine area at LaRonde" in its earnings report, the company expects gold production in 2020 of 1.875 million ounces and in 2021 of 2.048 million ounces, as opposed to previous respective guidance of 2.05 million and 1.95 million ounces.

Lastly, a tide of bearish sentiment from Wall Street shook investors' confidence. Agnico Eagle's stock was downgraded to "hold" from "buy" at both TD Securities and Canaccord, according to Additional pessimism came from Scotiabank where an analyst downgraded the stock to "sector perform" from "outperform," while an analyst at RBC Capital, Josh Wolfson, slashed his price target to $50 from $61.

Now what

Although it was the less lustrous results from the Q4 earnings report that most moved investors last month, there were a few glittering items: The company's Q4 gold production and 2019 production both represented company records, while the $257.5 million in operational cash flow generated in Q4 also represented a company record. For the bulls who appreciate Agnico Eagle's long-term growth potential, the recent sell-off seems like a compelling opportunity to add to their positions, with shares trading at 12.8 times operating cash flow -- a discount to their five-year average of 14.5, according to Morningstar.

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Agnico Eagle Mines Limited Stock Quote
Agnico Eagle Mines Limited
$47.76 (-1.65%) $0.80
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