Sunday, January 15, 2012

Inter-Citic Minerals (ICI) Struggles Even With Strong Gold And Yuan

The stream of junk mailers from stock touters never seems to end.  Even among a flood of hopeless penny stocks, one or two might stand out as worth more than just cursory dismissal.  Today's let's consider whether a Chinese gold miner named Inter-Citic Minerals (ICI) deserves study.

I first took notice of this company when I saw their promotional booth at the San Francisco Hard Assets Conference in 2010.  They positioned themselves as an affordably priced gold producer.  They're still a low-priced stock, which is disappointing in the face of two fundamental forces that should have worked in Inter-Citic's favor.

The first force is the price of gold itself.  Gold is now trading at over $1600/oz., an increase of about 20% since the time of that conference in late November 2010.  Now watch the other shoe drop.  ICI.TO was trading at $1.83 on November 29, 2010 and has since dropped to $1.13.  The stock has declined in the face of a rising metal price.  Junior miners typically experience a significant pop when their commodity price rises, and that's precisely why many gold bugs find them attractive.  Inter-Citic Minerals did the opposite.

The second force is the gradual appreciation of the yuan versus the U.S. dollar.  A currency that can buy more in dollar terms would make earnings denominated in that currency worth more to equity investors.  The stock market did bid up the price of ICI.TO but this crested in February 2011 at over $2.00/share.  Inter-Citic's operations don't seem to be motivating the market to bid up its value along with the gradual strengthening of the yuan.

Sometimes even powerful macroeconomic tailwinds can't push up a weak stock.  Their 2010 annual financial statement revealed negative net income in 2009 that grew even more negative in 2010; free cash flow was also negative.  The company is still losing about a penny per share (measured in Canadian dollars) according to their Q3 2011 report.  I'm glad I chose not to commit money to this stock way back in 2010.  I would have been poorer by now.

Full disclosure:  No position in ICI.TO or ICMTF.PK, ever.