Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Uranium Energy Corp. May As Well Be Radioactive

Uranium Energy Corp. (UEC) used to be named something related to gold. Another company now has their old name, so that's just water under the bridge. The global nuclear power is healthy enough to support strong demand for uranium production. It's too bad UEC isn't successfully meeting that demand.

UEC has 23 projects in motion as of this writing, with all but two in the US. Their problem is that almost all of these projects are still under exploration. They have one operational plant, one producing mine (sort of, depending on permits), and one project at the development stage. That's all they have after a decade.

Consider the numbers for those projects that have NI 43-101 reports. Anderson will require almost $44M initial capex, with a recovered production cost of $33.65/lb.  It is sobering to see the base case NPV estimate (at a 10% discount rate, $65/lb market price) of $142.2M, when the total capex commitment is estimated at $139.2M in the 43-101.  That's barely worth doing at all.  Infomine reports the uranium price for Aug. 26, 2015 as $36.75/lb.  If the Anderson project is barely worthwhile at $65/lb, it cannot be viable at current market prices.

I grabbed UEC's Q3 2015 10-Q dated June 9, 2015.  The company had $1.4M in cash on hand as of April 30 and inventory of $2.2M.  Their monthly burn rate is about -$1.8M, so they're pretty much surviving one quarter at a time.  Note the negative retained earnings of nearly -$187M, because that's about how much investor capital the company has thrown down a bunch of holes in its lifetime.  Further capital raises will be needed to fund the capex for projects like Anderson, so shareholders can expect further dilution.

I will hazard a guess about why this company is losing money.  If they had focused on a handful of decent projects with grades of at least 0.10%, they could have succeeded by now.  The World Nuclear Association notes that the largest uranium mines in the world produce most of the world's uranium with average grades over 0.10%.  UEC has spent a lot of time and money exploring many projects whose MII grades do not cross that 0/10% threshold, meaning their ultimate 2P grades will likely be lower in a 43-101 PEA.

Uranium mining and processing can be a radioactive business. Companies that try to do it for a decade without financial success may as well be radioactive themselves. I will not have money-losing companies like UEC in my own portfolio. Financial losses are radioactive to my ROI.

Full disclosure:  No position in Uranium Energy Corp. (ticker UEC) at this time.