At the end of 2013, I was very bullish on uranium as I believed the end of the 20-year Russian Nuclear Agreement would spark a rally as utilities would have to buy in the spot market. From December to March many of the uranium miners, such as the uranium mining ETF (URA), Cameco (CCJ) and Paladin, were up significantly.
However, for the past two and a half months, the spot price has taken a nasty tumble. It is similar to the recent shakeout in copper (JJC) below $3. The marginal players may be shaken out, but the long-term value investors may be continuing to accumulate uranium miners at decade-low uranium prices below $30.
The end of the 20-year Megatons to Megawatts Program will force the United States, which is the largest consumer of uranium in the world, to look to the domestic uranium producers such as Cameco (CCJ) and Uranerz (URZ).
Look for Japan to turn nuclear reactors back on this summer as they can't afford to import record amounts of liquefied natural gas. Remember, Asian nations pay four to five times more for natural gas. China is making a major IPO to raise money for expansion of nuclear power as well. Japan and China is confirming to long term contrarian uranium investors that nuclear will remain a key base-load power source.
However, the big news will come from Germany, which went away from nuclear after Fukushima and further relied on imported Russian natural gas through the Ukraine. Electricity costs are skyrocketing in the EU. The tensions and sanctions on Russia have left Western Europe in a vulnerable situation. The German people may want to rethink nuclear, as did the Japanese, and come to the reality that it is either nuclear or be at the mercy of Putin.
Uranium prices still are irrationally low. This basing period is the best time to accumulate if you are a long-term investor who believes uranium will rebound. Remember, there are more nuclear reactors being built and operated now than before Fukushima. Supply from mines is declining everyday as most current operations are a losing proposition. Cameco, BHP, Rio, Areva and Paladin are all cutting back operations at these low price levels.
These are the best times for contrarians some of who are doubling down at these levels. They realize that big money continues to wait on the sidelines to enter the spot market. Uranium Participation Corp (URPTF) raised $58 million to buy spot uranium. There has not seemed to be much buying since this raise which may mean they are looking for a time to enter. When the buying begins look for the uranium spot price to gap higher.
This recent capitulation in the uranium spot price to below $30 may signal the shorts are exhausted. After arguably seven years of basing, uranium has all the characteristics for a sector about to bounce off a major bottom.
I expect Uranerz Energy (URZ) to profit nicely as the uranium market comes back into favor. They have great growth aspects as they just announced their third planned production center at Jane Dough, which will add more feed to the Nichols Ranch ISR Facility in the heart of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. I expect to hear news that the company has made its first sale of yellowcake uranium this summer.
What is remarkable to note is that Uranerz Energy is still trading way above its lows despite the spot price hitting new lows. The stock has rallied from a low around $0.80 to close to $2 in 2014. It is entitled to correct 50% to around $1.40. This may be an area of support.
The reason Uranerz may be getting a premium to other in the beaten down uranium sector is that they have long-term offtake arrangements with utilities at much higher prices. Many uranium producers who have to sell into the spot price near term will be under pressure. However, new U.S. producers with the ability to grow like Uranerz (URZ) may be one of the best places to invest.
That is why this new uranium producer attracted Paul Goranson, former President of Cameco Resources US subsidiary, the world’s largest uranium producer to join Uranerz as its President and Chief Operating Officer. He was responsible for Cameco’s Double U strategy to double US production at projects such as North Butte and Smith-Highland Ranch. Paul has over 25 years of uranium mining, processing and permitting experience. We discussed the fundamental reasons that attracted him to join Uranerz and the recent significance of the final approval from the NRC to begin uranium production at Nichols Ranch.