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M&A Excitement in the Junior Mining Sector: AgaNola's Florian Siegfried

 -- Published: Wednesday, 20 August 2014 | Print  | Disqus 

Source: Brian Sylvester of The Gold Report 


Florian Siegfried, head of precious metals and mining investments with Switzerland-based AgaNola Ltd., knows where the music is playing in the mining M&A space. In this interview with The Gold Report, Siegfried notes that well-financed juniors with low production and capital costs, or intermediate cash-flowing producers will be hitting the M&A high notes.


The Gold Report: As of Aug. 1, 2014 the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) was up about 7% year-to-date, while the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ) was up about 30% and the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) was up about 22%. These are generally considered proxies for gold and gold mining equities. Is the mining sector bear dead?


Florian Siegfried: We have to distinguish between the short term and medium term and take an overall picture of where we stand. Gold has found a floor at the $1,280/ounce gold ($1,280/oz) level, which is encouraging for the short term. If we are in fact in the late stages of a good basing action in gold, that means the speculative money will go back not only to the metal, but also mining shares in anticipation of higher gold prices.


If we move below $1,280/oz in the short term, the bears will remain in the driver's seat for at least a few weeks, perhaps months.


TGR: And in the medium term?


FS: If we see a continued rotation out of broad market equities and into precious metals then I would say, yes, the bear is dead. An encouraging sign that the bear is indeed dead is that gold is rising against the U.S. dollar and precious metals shares are largely outperforming the metal itself. This is encouraging but it doesn't yet confirm anything.


TGR: If the gold price falls below $1,280/oz, how many months could the bear stick around?


FS: Midcycle corrections in gold tend to last up to four years. It has been more than three years now, probably 3.5 for the miners. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sideways trend for the next six months, if we go by past cycles.


TGR: Share prices seem to be getting ahead of metals prices. Do you expect that to even out or continue?


FS: If we see continuing weakness in equities and bonds, this rotation into precious metals will continue. But if we see heavy liquidation in stocks and rising yields in the junk bond market as liquidity evaporates, precious metal shares will not outperform gold because the sage money will primarily go into gold itself. As long as we remain in this rotation, I would expect shares to outperform the metal in the medium term.


TGR: Are turnaround stories the sweet spot for precious metals investors?


FS: This is where you can have the best returns if the market continues to go up. It's about being selective and trying to find turnaround candidates. The problem is that many companies are cutting capital expenditures (capex) to reduce their all-in costs, which lifts profits temporarily but poses new problems in the longer run. Lots of stocks are 80–90% below their all-time highs and they're down for a reason. You have to find the ones that have stabilized their operations and that have sufficient cash to go through the restructuring period as they make operational progress. At $1,300/oz gold few producers make much money but they have leverage to the gold price. When the gold price shoots higher, these companies should become very profitable. You can still buy them at depressed valuations at this stage.


TGR: Mining is largely a sentiment driven market. What is the current sentiment among investors and money managers that you talk with?


FS: The traditional gold equity funds have mostly stabilized after the drop last year, but they are basically not seeing big inflows from the traditional investor base. Those investors have largely sold out. Interestingly, there are many first-time buyers, including private equity, investing in the sector because it is ridiculously cheap at this point.


In Asia, investors are more into the high-beta stocks or turnaround stories. Overall, the sentiment toward gold and precious metals in Europe is definitely much more supportive than in North America.


TGR: How much of an impact are Asian investors having in the space versus what was happening three to five years ago?


FS: A lot of Asian institutions sold out just as everyone else did because those funds received the same redemptions as everyone else. The mood probably remains quite depressed, but the difference is that they are trying to play the next upswing by picking up those fallen angels, the midtier producers that are priced at much lower valuations than the senior stocks. Selective buying from Asia has given the market some support.


TGR: What are European investors seeking when it comes to precious metals equities?


FS: For European investors looking for gold mining companies, it's all about quality, management, profits and sustainable operations. Investors are increasingly selective. In the last run up in 2009–2011, an investor could virtually buy any company with gold in its name and it went up when gold went up. A rally has been in place since the beginning of the year but not every stock is joining in. It's now about stock picking.


TGR: You're not a geologist but you have a background in finance and a fair amount of experience in this space. How do you vet these companies?


FS: I make a short, diversified list of companies. There are hundreds of names but in the end I end up with probably 50–60 that I can really track. It's a risky business. I have to consider all the different factors—financials, management, jurisdictions. I eventually try to pare the list down to the best names.


TGR: What are your investment strategies to get the most out of the next move in the cycle?


FS: Investors have to have a core portfolio of low-cost, well-financed junior and intermediate producers because that is where the music is playing if mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity continues. Increase positions where you see momentum gaining strength because this is a market driven by momentum and sentiment.


For turnaround situations, I prefer 100,000–200,000/oz (100–200 Koz) gold producers that are bottoming, demonstrating quarterly operational progress and have cash in the bank. But only selectively build positions on the down days because those equities remain volatile in this market.


For M&A, the developers that are fully financed or fully permitted will take center stage in the next M&A wave. I would definitely have some exposure there.


If we see higher gold prices in the next few quarters, I also like cheap advanced-stage exploration stocks trading between, say, $0.10–$0.30/share. These stocks are basically an option on gold.


TGR: So will the biggest M&A players be the midtier and one-mine producers that are looking to build production by 50% or more?


FS: Yes. Being a single-mine operation is just risky; these companies are vulnerable and volatile. Most of them want to be more diversified and attract institutional investors by having greater liquidity. Many of these junior producers are thinking, "How can we attract the fresh money coming to the sector?" The generalist investors coming into the space do not have a lot of experience in the resource world. They typically want to see a good diversified portfolio of operations so that if anything goes wrong the stock doesn't lose 50% in one day.


TGR: Do you have some parting advice for investors?


FS: This market is driven by sentiment and momentum. Get the timing right. If you think the timing is right, buy the shares before they look as if they could breakout.


Don't buy too many juniors; buy fewer names with the right ingredients and try to time the market. If something goes wrong, don't hesitate to sell because that was a big mistake and it's still a big mistake. Then go to the next name. Always do your own homework.


TGR: Thank you for talking with us today, Florian.


Florian Siegfried is head of precious metals and mining investments at AgaNola Ltd., an asset management boutique based in Switzerland. Previously Siegfried was the CEO of Precious Capital AG, a Zürich-based fund specializing in global mining investments. Prior to this Siegfried was CEO of shaPE Capital, a SIX Swiss Exchange-listed private equity company that was founded by Bank Julius Baer & Co. Siegfried holds a masters degree in finance and economics from the University of Zürich.


1) Brian Sylvester conducted this interview for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report, The Life Sciences Report and The Mining Report, and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. 
2) Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for its services.
3) Florian Siegfried: I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview. AgaNola Ltd. does not assume any liability with respect to incorrect or incomplete information (whether received from public sources or whether prepared by itself or not). This material does not constitute a prospectus, a request/offer, nor a recommendation of any kind, e.g., to buy/subscribe or sell/redeem investment instruments or to perform other transactions. 
4) Interviews are edited for clarity. Streetwise Reports does not make editorial comments or change experts' statements without their consent.
5) The interview does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility. By opening this page, each reader accepts and agrees to Streetwise Reports' terms of use and full legal 
6) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles and interviews on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned. Directors, officers, employees or members of their families are prohibited from making purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise during the up-to-four-week interval from the time of the interview until after it publishes.


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