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Golden Predator Mining Corp. and Viva Gold Corp Enter into Business Combination Agreement

THIS NEWS RELEASE IS INTENDED FOR DISTRIBUTION IN CANADA ONLY AND IS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR DISTRIBUTION TO UNITED STATES NEWSWIRE SERVICES OR FOR DISSEMINATION IN THE UNITED STATES VANCOUVER, BC / March 3, 2021 / Golden Predator Mining Corp.(TSXV:GPY)(OTCQX:

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This article was originally published by Inside Exploration

THIS NEWS RELEASE IS INTENDED FOR DISTRIBUTION IN CANADA ONLY AND IS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR DISTRIBUTION TO UNITED STATES NEWSWIRE SERVICES OR FOR DISSEMINATION IN THE UNITED STATES

VANCOUVER, BC / March 3, 2021 / Golden Predator Mining Corp.(TSXV:GPY)(OTCQX:NTGSF) (“Golden Predator“) and Viva Gold Corp. (TSXV:VAU)(OTCQB:VAUCF) (“Viva Gold“) are pleased to announce that they have entered into a definitive arrangement agreement (the “Agreement“) whereby Golden Predator will acquire all of the outstanding securities of Viva Gold by way of a plan of arrangement (the “Arrangement“) under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia) (the “Transaction“).

The proposed Arrangement brings together proven mine building expertise, jurisdictional diversification and two advanced stage gold development projects as the two company’s merge their Nevada and Yukon assets and management to position the company as an emerging junior gold producer.

Details of Arrangement

Pursuant to the Arrangement, the shareholders of Viva will receive 1.60 Class A common shares of Golden Predator (a “Golden Predator Share“) for each common share of Viva Gold (a “Viva Gold Share“) held by them at the effective time of the Arrangement (the “Exchange Ratio“). Upon the closing of the Transaction, former shareholders of Viva Gold will hold approximately 27% of the outstanding shares of Golden Predator. The Exchange Ratio represents a premium of approximately 35% to the Viva Gold shareholders over the 20-day volume weighted average price, and 35% to the 30-day volume weighted average price of the Viva Gold Shares as at March 1, 2021.

On closing of the Arrangement, subject to TSX Venture Exchange (“TSXV“) approval and applicable securities laws, the directors of Golden Predator will consist of: William Sheriff (Executive Chair); James Hesketh (Chief Executive Officer); two nominees selected by Viva Gold; and three nominees selected by Golden Predator. The management of Golden Predator will consist of James Hesketh, President and Chief Executive Officer and Mike Maslowski, Chief Operating Officer.

Janet Lee-Sheriff, current Golden Predator Chief Executive Officer will participate in a seamless transition. Ms Lee-Sheriff remains committed to working with the Company to uphold corporate values and objectives surrounding progressive indigenous relations and innovative community engagement, in particular with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun and Kaska Nation.

In connection with the Arrangement, Golden Predator is proposing to distribute 8,620,000 common shares of C2C Gold Corp. to shareholders of record of Golden Predator immediately prior to closing of the Arrangement by way of return of capital transaction (the “Return of Capital“).

“The Golden Predator Board of Directors looks forward to working with James Hesketh and the Viva team. Mr. Hesketh is deeply familiar with Brewery Creek and its potential for economic production. We strongly believe our shareholders and the communities we operate in will benefit from jurisdictional diversification and the addition of proven mine building expertise at this pivotal time,” said William M. Sheriff. Executive Chairman of Golden Predator.

“This Transaction brings together all of the key ingredients required to build a premier junior gold producer. Two advanced stage gold development projects ready for permitting and development, exploration upside, excellent mining jurisdictions, strong management skillsets, a solid balance sheet, and strong market liquidity” states James Hesketh, President and CEO of Viva Gold.

Viva Gold and Golden Predator will be hosting a joint online investor teleconference/videoconference on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 11 AM (ET) to provide more details about the arrangement Transaction. To register and attend the webinar please visit: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9138677069424175887

Key benefits of this transaction for Golden Predator and Viva shareholders:

  • Increased size and risk mitigation through consolidated ownership of the advanced stage Tonopah Gold Project in Nevada and the formerly operating Brewery Creek Gold Mine in the Yukon;
  • A focus on low-cost, open-pit, heap-leach technology;
  • Combined 1.8 million ounces of measured and indicated heap leachable gold resources, with an additional 0.8 million ounces of inferred gold resource and strong exploration upside on both lead projects;
  • A pipeline of advanced exploration projects, including the high-grade Marg polymetallic Copper-Gold deposit and a number of gold exploration properties with demonstrated gold mineralization and excellent potential;
  • Significantly strengthened management and leadership team with balanced and complimentary skillsets;
  • Proven mine building capacity and in-house technical expertise to advance projects;
  • Diversification of operating jurisdictions;
  • Enhanced balance sheet and liquidity with over $6.3 million in net cash and marketable securities;
  • Cost reduction synergies gained through consolidation and reduced overhead;
  • A committed focus on environmental stewardship and a progressive approach towards First Nation relations and community engagement; and a strong combined shareholder base of institutional and retail shareholders with limited ownership overlap.

The closing of the Transaction is subject to customary conditions, including the approval of Viva Gold shareholders, court approvals of the Arrangement and the Return of Capital, and the acceptance of the TSXV. Evans & Evans, Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, has provided the fairness opinion to the Viva Gold Board of Directors concluding that the Transaction is fair, from a financial point of view, to its shareholders as at March 1, 2021.

The special committee and the board of directors of Viva Gold recommend that, in the absence of a superior proposal, Viva Gold shareholders vote in favor of the Arrangement. Dentons Canada LLP is acting as legal advisor to Viva Gold.

The board of directors of Golden Predator received a fairness opinion from RWE Growth Partners of Vancouver, confirming that the transaction is fair, from a financial point of view, to the shareholders of Golden Predator. Morton Law LLP is acting as legal advisor to Golden Predator.

The directors and senior officers, and certain other shareholders of Viva Gold, representing approximately 20% of the issued share capital of Viva Gold, have committed to vote their Viva Gold Shares in favor of the Arrangement. The parties currently expect the Transaction to be completed on or about May 3, 2021. Upon completion of the Transaction, Viva Gold will apply to delist the Viva Gold Shares from the TSXV.

The Arrangement will require the approval of at least 2/3rds of votes cast by the Viva Gold shareholders. Full details of the Arrangement will be provided in a Viva Gold management information circular, which is expected to be mailed to Viva Gold’s shareholders by March 29, 2021. It is anticipated that the Viva shareholders meeting and the closing of the Transaction will take place by April 29, 2021.

The Agreement also contains certain customary non-solicitation and right to match provisions, with a break fee of $300,000.

ABOUT GOLDEN PREDATOR MINING CORP.

Golden Predator is advancing the past-producing Brewery Creek Mine towards a timely resumption of mining activities in Canada’s Yukon. The project has established resources grading over 1.0 g/t Gold and both a technical report and Bankable Feasibility Study underway to define the economics of a restart of heap leach operations at the Brewery Creek Mine. The 180 km2 brownfield property is located 55 km by road from Dawson City, Yukon and operates under a Socio-Economic Accord with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. The Company also holds the Marg Project, with a 43-101 compliant resource, the Gold Dome Project and Grew Creek Project. For additional information on Golden Predator and the Brewery Creek Mine, please visit our website: www.goldenpredator.com.

ABOUT VIVA GOLD CORP.

Viva Gold is a gold exploration and project development company with a focus on Nevada. Viva Gold holds 100% of the advanced Tonopah Gold Project, a large land position of approximately 8,800 acres with demonstrated high-grade measured, indicated and inferred gold resources, located on the prolific Walker Lane gold trend in Nevada, about 30 kilometers south-east of the Round Mountain mine of Kinross Gold and 20 kilometers north from the Town of Tonopah. Viva’s management team has extensive experience in mining exploration, development and production and is supported by a Board of Directors and advisors who are proven mine finders, deal makers and financiers. Viva Gold trades on the TSX-V as “VAU”, on the OTCQB in the US as “VAUCF” and on the Frankfurt exchange under “7PB”. For additional information on Viva Gold and the Tonopah Gold Project, please visit our website: www.vivagoldcorp.com.

Contact Information:

Golden Predator Mining Corp.
William Sheriff, Executive Chair
(604)260-0289

Viva Gold Corp.
James Hesketh, President & CEO
(720)291-1775

TSX VENTURE EXCHANGE DISCLAIMER

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

Certain information contained herein constitutes forward-looking information or statements (“forward looking statements”) under applicable securities legislation and rules. Such statements include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the anticipated completion of the Arrangement. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management as of the date such statements are made and are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements of Viva Gold and/or Golden Predator to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to: (i) any inability of the parties to satisfy the conditions to the completion of the Arrangement on acceptable terms or at all; (ii) and receipt of necessary stock exchange, court and shareholder approvals; (iii) satisfactory results of due diligence investigations. Although management of each of Viva Gold and Golden Predator has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Viva Gold will not update any forward-looking statements or forward-looking information that are incorporated by reference herein, except as required by applicable securities laws. Golden Predator cautions readers not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and it does not undertake any obligation to revise and disseminate forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof, or to reflect the occurrence of or non-occurrence of any events.

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Author: MikeyMike426

Precious Metals

Wage slaves vs gold owners, revisited

2022.01.21
Inflation is the rate at which prices within a basket of goods or services (called the consumer price index or CPI) rise or fall. When a currency…

Wage slaves vs gold owners, revisited

2022.01.21

Inflation is the rate at which prices within a basket of goods or services (called the consumer price index or CPI) rise or fall. When a currency falls, the ability of that unit of money to purchase goods and services weakens, i.e., it takes more units of currency to buy the same basket of goods as before it weakened. The more a currency falls, the less you can buy with it because its purchasing power decreases. We call this devaluation/ loss of purchasing power.

Loss of purchasing power

We know from a previous article that the purchasing power of most Americans earning wages or collecting a salary, has stagnated.

According to the Pew Research Center, from 1973 to 2018 the compensation of the typical US worker only grew about 12%. During the same period, the hourly median wage went up less than 10% in real (after inflation) dollars, or an average annual raise of barely 4 cents.

Real wages among the lowest-paid workers have fared even worse, increasing just 4.3% between 1979 and 2018.

Americans’ paychecks may have increased but their purchasing power hasn’t. According to Pew, despite some ups and downs over the past several decades, the real average wage in 2018 had the same purchasing power it did in 1978. 

This is all down to inflation and the inability of fiat currencies to protect against it.

Admittedly the pandemic has somewhat reversed this trend, but inflation has also skyrocketed.

The chart below by Trading Economics shows US wage and salaries growth holding steady at about 5% since 2017, decreasing in the early part of 2020, then climbing sharply in 2021, as the US economy experienced a shortage of workers. In fact in the three months ending in September, pay jumped 1.5%, the most in 20 years. Why?

Employees have been quitting their jobs in droves, with many preferring to stay home and collect “stimmy checks”. Covid-19 has also restricted immigration. According to Axios, there are about 2 million fewer immigrants in the US because of covid immigration restrictions, about 1.5 million fewer mothers of school-aged children are working, compared to pre-pandemic times, and there were 3.3 million more retirees in October 2021 versus January 2020.  

The dearth of workers has hiked wages and salaries, but significant and persistent inflation has done away with the gains in most cases. In October 2021 average hourly earnings increased by 0.4%, but inflation for the month increased 0.9%, meaning a -0.5% decrease in real average hourly earnings.

According to the Labor Department, wages swelled from April 2020 to April 2021, with average hourly earnings up 4.9% in October, but compared with inflation, real hourly wages actually declined more than 1.2% during the same period.

“For now, inflation is going to continue to run above very solid wage growth,” CNBC quoted Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist for the Americas at Natixis and former chief economist for the National Economic Council during the Trump administration.

A survey of 5,365 adults done for the New York Times, found only 17% of workers received wage increases that kept up with inflation.

While the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 6.8% in November, a nearly four-decade high, average hourly earnings increased just 4.8%. Other measures show pay gains lagging price increases, the newspaper states.

US wages have failed to keep up with the rate of inflation. The wage and salary earner is literally getting screwed every day because the value of the dollar is being devalued by a fractionally small amount. Over time, however, the diminished value is huge.

In the US there was an increase in inflation for every decade except the Depression. The dollar has lost 90% of its purchasing power since 1950.

It’s important to understand that the US Federal Reserve’s concept of inflation is different from both the official statistic and the reality in the economy. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is currently 7%, which is the highest since 1982 — a 40-year high. This is the number most quoted in the financial press; it is the official inflation rate.

But the Fed when it talks about inflation, has since 2012 referred to the “Personal Consumption Expenditures” (PCE) price index. Core PCE inflation excludes food and fuel, supposedly because they’re too volatile, but the fact that the two most essential price categories are left out, means the Fed is deliberately underestimating true inflation.

Real “on the ground” inflation is much higher. CPI’s less known but more accurate cousin is the Producer Prices Index (PPI). Unlike CPI, which is crafted by bean counters, the PPI is based on information from actual producers of goods and services. The numbers don’t lie.

The latest PPI data point clocked in at 9.7% for 2021 — close to double-digit inflation.

It must also be pointed out that the government does not calculate inflation like it used to. John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics published two charts, one showing inflation today if it was calculated the same way it was in 1990, the second showing inflation today using 1980’s methodology.

The latter reveals the actual inflation rate today is 15%, not 7%.

According to Williams, Over the decades, the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] has altered the meaning of the CPI from being a measure of the cost of living needed to maintain a constant standard of living, to something that neither reflects the constant-standard-of-living concept nor measures adequately most of what consumers view as out-of-pocket expenditures. 

For example of the current consumer price index (CPI), 24% represents the category “homeowners’ equivalent rent of residences.” Instead of reflecting a measure of home prices, as was the case before 1983, the BLS bases this figure on surveys that ask what homeowners think their home might rent for.

Williams says the aggregate impact of inflation reporting changes since 1980 have reduced the level of annual CPI by roughly seven percentage points. The effect has been a significant under-reporting of official inflation, so as to cut annual cost of living adjustment to Social Security, etc.

A comparison between using gold versus dollars to buy a basket of breakfast groceries — milk, eggs, bread and bacon, and the gas to go get them — is illustrative.

1970

Milk: $1.32 per gallon
Eggs: 60¢ per dozen 
Bread: 70¢
Bacon: 85¢ – 95¢ per pound
Gasoline: 36¢ a gallon

December 2021 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics latest numbers)

Milk: $3.74 per gallon
Eggs: $1.78 per dozen
Bread: $1.53
Bacon: $7.21 per pound
Gasoline: $3.40 a gallon

Selling an ounce of gold in 2022 would give you about $1,813 — a 51X increase over the $35/oz gold in 1970. Obviously $1,813 buys a hell of a lot more breakfast groceries than $35 — you could probably feed an entire football team, including coaches and trainers, with everybody coming up for seconds.

The point is a grocery shopper using gold as a currency rather than dollars in 2022 would see a 51-fold increase in their purchasing power.

The shopper using dollars by contrast loses about 40% of their purchasing power because the prices of their grocery items have at least doubled or in the case of bacon increased by a factor of seven.

Which has been the better store of value, dollars, or gold? Obviously, it is gold — the only safe haven that protects the holder against rampant inflation caused by money-printing.

Loser bonds

There is another way that governments and the mainstream financial system keeps average Joes and Janes in check, and that is the purchase of government bonds, which in the United States, are known as Treasury bills (or notes).

Ever since the US dollar became the reserve currency in 1944, a decision made by the Bretton Woods delegation of 44 Allied countries, long-term US bonds, like the 30-year and the 10-year, have been held in high esteem by foreign governments, corporations and individuals.

When there is low confidence in the economy, people want safe investments, and US Treasuries are considered among the safest — the logic being that the US government would never stop paying interest to bondholders.

Demand for Treasuries bids up their prices and yields fall. Conversely, when confidence returns, investors dump their bonds, thinking they do not need to play it safe. This causes bond prices to sink and yields to climb.

Bondholders and the US government (through the Treasury) that issues them have a symbiotic relationship. Washington needs domestic and foreign entities to buy its debt, so that it can continue to run deficits, which keep getting added to the debt, now at $29 trillion. Treasury buyers simply need the government to be able to pay them back their principal plus interest when the bond matures.

Lately however this relationship has developed some cracks. In a recent article we found a leveling off of foreign purchases of US Treasury bonds and notes. Instead of foreigners buying T-bills, it is increasingly Americans, including consumers, banks and the biggest buyer of them all, the US Federal Reserve.

We have also identified an even more interesting trend. With 7% US inflation climbing faster and it being “stickier” than anticipated, the Fed has few policy options at its disposal. The horrendous yields on US Treasuries make them a poor investment, something foreign investors have already realized and US bond-buyers will surely cotton onto soon as well.

This practically guarantees the continuation of Fed bond buying (QE) despite the much-ballyhooed taper. As for raising rates, we have proven that the Fed can’t do it, at least not at the levels required to beat 4% inflation. We are talking about interest costs nearing a trillion dollars per year, when the deficit is accounted for. 

Yet the Ponzi scheme continues: the government needs to spend big to get re-elected, but they don’t have the money, so they borrow it (issue Treasuries) or they print it (they could raise taxes, but that is political suicide). Treasuries are considered a safe investment, so the government doesn’t worry about keeping on issuing them — like soap, diapers and gasoline, they will also finding a willing buyer, even as bond prices rise and yields plummet.

This is well-illustrated in the chart below by Longtermtrends, where the black line is the nominal interest rate of a 1-year US Treasury bond, the red line is the inflation rate and the blue line is the real interest rate. The chart shows that, adjusted for inflation, the yields on US Treasuries have often been negative.

Nominal vs real interest rate vs inflation. Source: Longtermtrends.net

A couple of data points bear analyzing. Note inflation (in red) spiking in 1975 and 1980. In 1980, interest rates of 10% are surpassed by 15% inflation, resulting in a negative return on the 1-year, of -5%. In fact the real yield is negative for about half of the 46-year time-span between 1975 and 2021 (where the blue line is in the pink, 1975-80 and 2003-21)

Why would anyone buy a US government bond, when its “real” return, i.e., yield minus inflation, is negative?

Long-time bond watcher James Paulsen wanted to know, so he penned a note to clients entitled “Bonds are BAD!”. Forbes covered the topic in a Dec. 6, 2021 article.

Start with the assumption that many investors have learned the “60-40” rule, where bonds are considered a good way of offsetting the volatility of stocks (60% stocks, 40% bonds) while providing an income/ yield. The mix worked well for most of the past four decades, with the declining interest rates following the early 1980s peak, providing a tailwind for both asset classes. When stocks went down, bonds would invariably rally, as rates were dropped.

But when Paulsen took a longer view, going back as far as 1926, he noticed there was a sharp difference in the stock-bond return relationship when the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was above 3% versus when it was lower.

The near-century of data found that when the 10-year yield was over 3%, bonds returned 4.6% and stocks returned 6.8%. Bonds also saw positive monthly real returns 57% of the time, which was just one percentage point less than stocks.

When the 10-year yielded less than 3%, as it does now, stocks enjoyed a 14% inflation-adjusted return while bonds gained 0%. Meanwhile stocks only dropped 35% of months, compared to 49% for bonds.

Barrons concludes, taking refuge in bonds whenever stocks have an inevitable correction may not offer safety

So why do investors do it? BlackRock offers some answers in a September, 2021 piece, ‘Understanding real interest rates’.

Noting that real yields have been pushing more and more negative, since September 2018 (see chart below), Blackrock identifies three types of investors who [continue] to gobble up these negative real-yielding assets. They are: foreign investors, who despite nominal US yields being so low, have developing-country yields that are even lower; institutional investors like pension funds who must buy Treasuries to fund longer-term liabilities and cash flows they must pay in future; and algorithmic-based investors that hedge portfolios by responding quickly to bond price changes. Lately they have shifted from “going short” (selling US Treasuries) to going long (buying US Treasuries). This boosts demand for Treasuries, and their prices, and pushes down their yields.

These investors all have one thing in commons, states BlackRock: none of them are buying Treasuries because they are cheaply priced or have a strong long-term return potential.

Source: Bloomberg, as of 9/6/2021

The world’s largest asset manager with US$10 trillion AUM, also observes that low US Treasury rates are resulting in pathetic yields everywhere else in fixed income markets — creating a major problem in the face of higher inflation.

With high-quality bonds like Treasuries, mortgages and investment-grade corporate debt resulting in strongly negative real annual yields, to gain any positive real yields, investors are having to go to much lower-quality bonds, including junk bonds (most of which are also negative).

The bottom line?

For investors who care about bond economics and the “real” rate of return, many have turned to finding higher nominal yields in riskier areas of the fixed income market. This strategy comes at the cost of sacrificing the safety of bond allocations and reduces diversification potential if equity markets sell off. To that end, the real problem of negative real yields looks like it is here to stay and makes rethinking the 60/40 portfolio framework more imperative than ever.

Nominal yields and real yields by sector. Source: Bloomberg, as of 8/31/21, via BlackRock

Real yields and gold

Of course, real interest rates correlate strongly to gold prices. The reason for this is simple, when real interest rates are below zero, cash and bonds fall out of favor because the real return is lower than inflation. Gold is the most proven investment to offer a return greater than inflation, by its rising price, or at least not a loss of purchasing power.

Historically, we can see the inverse relationship between negative real interest rates and gold, by charting the gold price and the 10-year Treasury’s yield after inflation.

In an article titled ‘The Golden Dilemma’, authors Claude Erb and Campbell found a near-perfect negative correlation of -0.82 (-1 being a perfect negative correlation) between real interest rates and gold prices between 1997 and 2012. Going back further in history, when real interest rates turned negative during the second half of the 1970s, gold moved as high as $1,900 an ounce, as real rates plummeted as low as -6%. When Paul Volcker, Fed Chair under President Carter and Reagan, hiked short-term nominal interest rates, real rates returned to positive, ending gold’s run. In fact, the gold price continued to drift downward, reaching a 30-year low under $400 an ounce in 2001. The gold bull market of 2010 to 2013 is easily seen in juxtaposition with negative real interest rates which bottomed out at around -4% during that same period.

Historical real rate of inflation versus gold

In the FRED chart below, notice that the gold price between 2013 and 2020 never gets above $1,400, corresponding to the period when the real yield on the 10-year is between about 0% and 1%. However, when real yields “go negative,” as they did around 2011-13, and in 2020, gold prices jumped.

2020’s 22% increase in the gold price was due to pandemic fears, combined with a low US dollar and plunging Treasury yields, causing real yields to go negative even though inflation stayed below 2%.

Gold prices jump when real yields “go negative,” as they did around 2011-13, and in 2020.

2020’s dramatic bond rally drove down yields across the world. On March 8, 2020, the US 10-year Treasury note reached an all-time low of -0.38%; two days earlier the German “bund” fell to a record -0.74%.

Investors piled into sovereign debt based on expectations of monetary stimulus like financial crisis-era easing programs that pushed down interest rates to zero and sparked a multi-year rally in stocks. 

Gold and debt to GDP

Gold also tracks the debt to GDP ratio closely, an important metric economists use for comparing a country’s total debt to its gross domestic product (GDP).

The percentage arrived at by dividing the country’s total GDP by its total debt indicates the country’s ability to pay back its loans. The higher the percentage, the higher the risk of a country being unable to pay the interest on its debt, and therefore defaulting on its debt. (countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios typically have trouble paying off debts. Because they are a higher risk to paying loans back, creditors demand higher interest rates. If a country’s debt-to-GDP ratio becomes too extravagant, creditors may stop lending to it altogether)

Apart from telling us which countries are good and bad credit risks, the debt-to-GDP ratio can also help in predicting the price of gold. The chart below, by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, compares total US public debt as a percentage of GDP, to the London Bullion Market gold fixing price.

As the debt-to-GDP-ratio rises, either because of a drop in GDP due to a recession, or a jump in government borrowing that piles up debt, or both, the gold price reacts. 

During the rounds of QE conducted by the US Federal Reserve, starting in 2008, the Fed increased the money supply by $4 trillion. But there was also a massive fiscal stimulus package launched to get the economy moving again. Bailing out the banks cost $250 billion and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act added $242 billion to budget deficits in 2009 and $400 billion in 2010. 

We see the debt-to-GDP ratio jump from 62% in 2007 to 83% in 2009, 90% in 2010, and it has kept climbing ever since; it is currently at 127.3%, according to usdebtclock.org.

US national debt, debt to GDP ratio. Source: usdebtclock.org

Role of the Fed

This wouldn’t be possible without the US Federal Reserve.

The Fed operates as a central bank, controlling fiscal and monetary policy. Its three goals are to promote maximum employment, keep prices stable (ie. control inflation) and to moderate long-term interest rates. But the Fed is “independent” in that it is not a part of the US government. While the US President appoints its seven-member board of governors, including its chair (appointments must be approved by the Senate), he has no direct control over its policies – though he’d certainly like to.

Over the years this set-up has led to frequent conflicts between US Presidents and the Federal Reserve. A column on CNBC notes that while Presidents Clinton and Bush II avoided criticizing the Fed, they are the exceptions not the norm.

So how did the US come to have a central bank that is independent from the government, anyway? It all goes back to November 22, 1910, when a delegation of the nation’s leading financiers, led by Senator Nelson Aldrich, left New Jersey for a secret 10-day meeting on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Among the attendees are some now-familiar American family banking names: 

  • Frank Vanderlip, president of the National City Bank of New York, associated with the Rockefellers
  • Henry P. Davison, senior partner of J.P. Morgan Company, regarded as Morgan’s personal emissary
  • Charles D. Norton, president of the Morgan-dominated First National Bank of New York
  • Col. Edward House, who would later become President Woodrow Wilson’s closest adviser and founder of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Benjamin Strong, a lieutenant of J.P. Morgan
  • Paul Warburg, a recent immigrant from Germany who had joined the banking house of Kuhn, Loeb and Company, New York directed the proceedings and wrote the primary features of what would be called the Aldrich Plan.

The Fed began with approximately 300 people, representatives of banks who became owners (stockholders purchased stock at $100 per share) of the Federal Reserve Banking System. 100% of its shareholders are private banks; the stock is not publicly traded and none of its stock is owned by the US government.

The Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) is a privately-owned company (Wikipedia describes the Fed as a “complex business-government partnership that rules the financial world”) that controls and profits immensely by printing money through the US Treasury and loaning money out to commercial banks.

Between 2008 and 2015 the Fed bought trillions of dollars worth of T-bills and mortgage-backed securities, keeping interest rates near zero percent, but making the US debt balloon from $900 billion to $4.5 trillion. After a brief hiatus, QE was re-started, as a reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the fourth round of QE began in the spring of 2020, the Fed’s total assets have more than doubled, to $8.7 trillion.

Fed balance sheet. Source: US Federal Reserve

The whole point of creating the Federal Reserve System was to give the new central bank (the Fed) control over the money supply – having been spooked by the crisis of 1907. Here a bit of history is useful, courtesy of former US Senator Ron Paul and Lewis Lehrman’s ‘The Case for Gold’ — written back in 1983. 

In their seminal work of economic history, Paul and Lehrman go right back to the beginning of what they call “The Present Monetary Crisis” when in 1784, Thomas Jefferson said, “If we determine that a dollar shall be our unit, we must then say with precision what a dollar is.” 

The founding fathers followed his advice and in 1792 defined one dollar as 371 grains of silver. From then until 1971, the dollar was defined by a weight of either silver or gold, but since 1971, when President Nixon abandoned the gold standard, the dollar remains undefined by a physical value. The greenback is really nothing more than a piece of paper printed with government ink and imbued with the subjective value that a $1 bill is in fact worth the 100 cents the government says it is worth. 

In 1900 the governing Republicans officially announced the gold standard. All paper money was to be redeemable in gold, and silver continued as a subsidiary metal. The problem was that between 1897 and 1914, an increase in gold production pushed the gold supply up by 7.5%. However the amount of cash deposits during the same period overwhelmed the amount of gold in bank vaults — total bank deposits increased 317.5% to gold’s 7.5% rise. In 1907 the Treasury was called upon to bail out the banks that ran short on cash, resulting in an agreed need for some form of central banking. 

Hence the 1910 meeting at Jekyll lsland, Georgia and the creation of the US Federal Reserve. 

An instrument of inflation 

Paul and Lehrman explain how by creating the US Federal Reserve System, the government invited persistent inflation: 

By establishing the Federal Reserve System, the federal government changed the base of the banking pyramid to the Federal Reserve Banks. Only the Federal Reserve could now print cash, and all member banks could now multiply their deposits on top of Federal Reserve deposits. All national banks were required to join the Federal Reserve, and their gold and other lawful money reserves had to be transferred to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve, in turn, could pyramid its deposits by three-to-one on top of gold. This centralization created an enormous potential for inflationary expansion of bank deposits. Not only that, reserve requirements for the nation’s banks were deliberately cut in half in the course of establishing the Federal Reserve System, thereby inviting the rapid doubling of the money supply. Average reserve requirements for all banks prior to the Federal Reserve Act is estimated to be 21 percent. In the original Act of 1913, these were cut to 11.6 percent and three years later to 9.8 percent. It is clear then that the Federal Reserve was designed from the very beginning to be an instrument for a uniform and coordinated inflation of bank money.

Indeed, total bank deposits were $14.0 billion at the beginning of the Federal Reserve System in January 1914; after six years, in January 1920, total bank deposits had reached $29.4 billion, an enormous increase of 110 percent or 18.3 percent per year. The creation of the Federal Reserve had made that expansion possible. 

Yet it was nothing compared to what would come after 1971, when President Nixon announced that no more gold would be given in exchange for dollars. “There were now absolutely no checks on the availability of the United States to inflate,” states the Paul and Lehrman report.

In a clear reference to the inflationary 1980s, the authors conclude that There has never, in peacetime American history, been any sustained rate of inflation to match the inflation since 1941. The same, in fact, is true of wartime, which at least has never lasted more than a few years. And it is not an accident that the highest, most accelerated rate of inflation has taken place since 1971, when the United States went off the international aspects of the gold standard and went over completely to fiat paper. 

And in the forward to the report:

[All] the effort and planning imaginable cannot make paper money work. There is no way paper can be “improved” as money. Whenever governments are granted power to purchase their own debt, they never fail to do so, eventually destroying the value of the currency. Political money always fails because free people eventually reject it. For short periods individual countries can tell their citizens to use paper, but only at the sacrifice of personal and economic liberty.

The Fed’s ability to print money on a whim, to “purchase their own debt” in the words of Ron Paul and Lewis Lehrman, is best exemplified by the quantitative easing programs that followed the 2008 financial crisis, in that case the popping of the US housing market bubble, elevated out of control via easy credit and toxic bank loans. 

Fourteen years later the US debt sits at $29 trillion and counting. The World Bank has warned of the risks of a new global debt crisis – pointing to the latest of four waves of debt accumulation over the past 150 years. 

The current wave which the Washington, DC-based group says started in 2010, is thought to be “the largest, fastest and most broad-based increase” in global borrowing since the 1970s, CNN reports

In the first quarter of 2019, world debt hit $246.5 trillion, reversing a trend that started in the beginning of 2018, of reducing debt burdens, when global debt reached its highest on record, $248 trillion.

We’ve written extensively about the dangers of the mounting US debt load.  

The country is accumulating about the same amount of debt as its annual economic output. Each year another trillion dollars gets added to the national debt.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) — both reliable sources — project a deficit of $1.3T in 2022, and every year until 2031.

As an indication of how far removed we are from the gold standard era, when governments were unable to freely print money or borrow, because the dollar was fixed to gold (1 oz = $35) consider the fact that US debt is growing a lot faster than above-ground gold inventories. According to Gold Broker, over the past 10 years the federal debt has doubled but the above-ground stock of gold has only grown 17%. 

Moreover, the total US debt to GDP ratio is at a record 370% (all debt including public, corporate and household debt).

Visual Capitalist created an interesting infographic that compared debt growth to gold and silver coin production during the Obama and Trump presidencies. It found that US gold coins minted dropped from $6.7 billion in Obama’s first term, to $2.9B in Trump’s term (to Oct. 26, 2020) and $3.7B in silver coins minted fell to $1.4B during the same time frame.

In Trump’s term, the value of US debt was almost $1,600 times higher than the value of minted silver and gold coins combined.

Conclusion

It’s not a stretch to envision a scenario whereby the world’s reserve currency, the US dollar, collapses under the weight of unmanageable debt, triggered say, by a mass offloading of US Treasuries by foreign countries, that own about $7.5 trillion of US debt (a selloff may also occur due to investors sick of getting such low yields for their US government bonds).

This would cause the dollar to crash, and interest rates would go through the roof, choking consumer and business borrowing. Import prices would skyrocket too, the result of a low dollar, hitting consumers in the pocket-book for everything not made in the USA. Business confidence would plummet, mass layoffs would occur, growth would stop, and the US would enter a recession.

Owning gold (and silver) continues to be the best defense against inflation, stagflation, and rampant currency debasement, during this period of unprecedented and irresponsible debt accumulation.

Also, when government can’t offer a positive real return, gold usually functions as the asset of last resort.

Richard (Rick) Mills
aheadoftheherd.com
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Energy & Critical Metals

Without a Doubt, Lithium’s “White Gold” Label is Merited

2022.01.21
Electrification and decarbonization are anticipated to be one of the biggest investment trends of 2022.
Just two weeks into the new year, we’re…

2022.01.21

Electrification and decarbonization are anticipated to be one of the biggest investment trends of 2022.

Just two weeks into the new year, we’re already witnessing a big rally in EV battery minerals, perhaps a precursor to what could be a historic year for metals considered vital to the energy transition.

Nickel prices last week surged to its highest in a decade, with investors betting on a global scramble for supplies of the EV battery material.

Another key battery mineral that has seen its prices soar is lithium, which started 2022 on a record high, continuing its strong form from last year. Data from S&P Global Platts last week showed that lithium carbonate prices in China have now risen 35% on month and are up 531% on the year.

And this uptrend in lithium (and other EV battery metals) is only going to continue, according to those within the battery metals industry.

Caspar Rawles, chief data officer at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the world’s leading lithium price reporting agency and EV supply chain data provider, notes that the early transactions from 2022 suggest that “lots of legs” are left in this rally.

Gavin Montgomery, research director for battery raw materials at Wood Mackenzie, recently said in a Financial Times article that lithium prices are unlikely to crash, as they did in previous cycles.

“We’re entering a sort of new era in terms of lithium pricing over the next few years because the growth will be so strong,” he added.

According to a December report from S&P Global, further demand growth in 2022 will mean a lithium deficit this year as use of the material outstrips production and depletes stockpiles.

Supply is forecast to jump to 636,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent in 2022, up from an estimated 497,000 in 2021 — but demand will jump even higher to 641,000 tonnes, from an estimated 504,000, the report said.

Lithium Supply Problem

Driving the latest lithium rally are near-term risks that are threatening deeper shortages in the metal’s supply, from plant maintenance and Winter Olympics curbs in China to pandemic-related labor shortages in Australia.

“The lithium market is extremely tight at present, so spot prices are very sensitive to any supply disruptions,“ Alice Yu, analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, recently wrote in a note to Bloomberg.

As we speak, lithium prices are still rising in China as consumers look to restock ahead of the Chinese New Year festivities at the end of the month and early February. The high level of buying in the world’s biggest EV economy also pushed prices higher in other regions such as Europe and the US, according to Fastmarkets.

Beyond the short-term issues, there are challenges for lithium supply to expand fast enough to avoid a prolonged market squeeze over the coming years.

Skeptics point to Rio Tinto’s controversial lithium project in Serbia, which is now on hold due to environmental protests, and the growing concerns around the sustainability credentials of South America’s brine-based production, as long-term threats to global supply.

“Customers are realizing that new supplies are very difficult to bring on,” said Tony Ottaviano, CEO at Australian lithium miner Liontown Resources, in the Bloomberg report. His company recently signed an agreement to ship lithium to South Korean battery giant LG Energy Solution from 2024, when its project is scheduled to start.

Last week, BlackRock’s Evy Hambro, global head of thematic and sector-based investing, told Bloomberg TV that commodity prices may stay high for decades as mining companies struggle to keep up with demand from the energy transition.

“We’ve got decades worth of high rates of investment into infrastructure as the world seeks to decarbonize. That’s a widely held consensual view,” he said.

Among the key raw materials listed was lithium, which is set to face fresh demand from the creation of a “greener world”.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF) estimates that, by 2030, consumption of lithium (and nickel) will be at least five times current levels.

Hambro still sees the mining sector as remaining undervalued, given its importance in providing the materials like lithium needed to decarbonize the global economy.

“It seems as though this core element of the transition has been completely ignored by many investors,” he said. “At some point people will realize how essential these businesses are for the transition and capital will flow into them, and that should change the valuations.”

More Expensive EVs

The tightening supply of metals is happening just as EV uptake around the world is about to explode, which is exerting serious cost pressure on battery production.

In fact, we could see the first rise in battery prices since 2010 this year, potentially undermining global efforts to speed up the adoption of EVs and clean energy technologies, analysts say.

Between 2010-2021, battery pack prices had dropped a staggering 89%, from above $1,200/kWh to $132/kWh in real terms, BloombergNEF’s annual battery price survey showed in November.

Li-ion battery prices dropped by 6% from $140/kWh in 2020 to $132/kWh in 2021, but could now rise to $135/kWh in 2022 in nominal terms due to higher raw material prices, BloombergNEF estimated.

According to the research provider, even low-cost chemistries like lithium iron phosphate (LFP), which have been used more in 2021 and are particularly exposed to lithium carbonate prices, have felt rising costs throughout the supply chain in recent months.

Since September, Chinese producers have raised LFP prices by between 10-20%, according to BloombergNEF estimates. Indeed, the average price of these cells is now the same as the average price of high-performing nickel-based cells in the first half, at around $100/kWh.

If other technology improvements cannot mitigate the higher cost of raw materials, the point of breaking below the critical threshold of $100/kWh battery pack price could be pushed back by two years from BloombergNEF’s current expectation of 2024.

“This would impact EV affordability or manufacturers’ margins and could hurt the economics of energy storage projects,” the research provider warned.

“Higher battery price creates a tough environment for automakers, particularly those in Europe, which have to increase EV sales in order to meet average fleet emissions standards,” said James Frith, BNEF’s head of energy storage research and lead author of the report.

Automakers may now have to make a choice between reducing their margins or passing costs onto consumers. Either way, some carmakers are likely to lose out in the global race to produce affordable EVs after failing to meet their ambitious targets.

In the grand scheme of things, the clean energy transition could be costlier and more distant than initially thought. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said last year:

“Today, the data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realizing those ambitions.”

US Falling Behind

The United States still lags behind both China and Europe when it comes to the production and domestic uptake of EVs, and the world’s biggest economy has made it loud and clear it wants to challenge its rivals’ dominance.

In an executive order, US President Joe Biden has already set a national goal for 50% of new car sales by 2030 to be electric. Jumpstarting his EV initiative is a proposed $7.5 billion spending package to build a network of 500,000 EV charging stations across the country.

Meanwhile, its EV industry is also making more noise than ever. Nearly every major automaker in the US has announced a transition to electric vehicles; Tesla delivered almost one million cars in 2021, while new electric vehicle companies like Rivian and Lucid are rolling out new models off the line.

However, to power these new EVs requires more batteries — and the materials to build them.

According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, EV growth will be responsible for more than 90% of demand for lithium by 2030. The UK-based consultancy forecasts that demand for lithium is set to triple by 2025, rising to 1 million tonnes and outpacing supply by 200,000 tonnes.

So for the US to really become an EV powerhouse, it needs to first solve its lithium supply problem.

Over 80% of the world’s raw lithium is currently mined in Australia, Chile and China. Moreover, China controls more than half of the world’s lithium processing and refining, and has three-fourths of the lithium-ion battery megafactories in the world, according to the IEA.

The US, meanwhile, mines and processes only 1% of the world’s lithium, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). There is only one lithium mine in operation, Albemarle’s Silver Peak, which extracts lithium from brine outside of Tonopah, Nevada, outputting a paltry 5,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate a year.

However, this is not to say we can rule out the US as a major producer of lithium, dubbed “white gold” for its vital role in rechargeable batteries and high demand.

Next Lithium Hub?

The US had been the leading producer of the metal until the 1990s, so scarcity is not a problem.

Within its borders are almost 8 million tonnes of lithium in reserve, ranking it among the top five countries in the world, according to the USGS.

So, with the right amount of investment, a burgeoning domestic “mine to battery to EV” supply chain is certainly within reach. Several projects are already in the works across the states of Nevada, North Carolina, California and Arkansas.

Nevada looks to be the focal point of the next “white gold rush” given the abundance of lithium-rich brines and clays, plus its history of lithium production dating back to the 1960s. It currently hosts the only US lithium mine, for now.

Conclusion

Lithium prices have already set new records to begin the year; China’s lithium carbonate prices jumped to over $47,500 last week, representing a six-fold increase over January 2021.

The BMI lithium index has already shot up by 280% year-on-year, and nearly 12% over the past month alone.

Some are predicting that this run is far from done. Australian lithium miner Allkem told Reuters this week that lithium carbonate prices could explode in the second half of the year, rising by about 80% to over $20,000/tonne in the six months to December.

“It’s a very, very tight supply market and as a result of this we’re seeing this very rapid increase in pricing,” the company representative said.

Strong demand for lithium-ion batteries for EVs and other applications is expected to put a strain on the global supply of battery raw materials, which will likely invoke a string of new investments.

China’s biggest battery makers and miners are already gobbling up lithium assets left, center and right, with more deals still left to be done. Without a doubt, lithium’s “white gold” label is merited.

With the global race to secure minerals in full throttle, there will be calls made to companies holding lithium projects within the most prolific regions of the world.

Richard (Rick) Mills
aheadoftheherd.com
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AOTH/Richard Mills makes no guarantee, representation or warranty and accepts no responsibility or liability as to its accuracy or completeness.

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AOTH/Richard Mills recommends that before investing in any securities, you consult with a professional financial planner or advisor, and that you should conduct a complete and independent investigation before investing in any security after prudent consideration of all pertinent risks.  Ahead of the Herd is not a registered broker, dealer, analyst, or advisor. We hold no investment licenses and may not sell, offer to sell, or offer to buy any security.

Author: Gail Mills

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Precious Metals

B2Gold (NYSE:BTG) (TSX:BTO) shows strong production, but Mali risks persist

B2Gold’s (NYSE:BTG) strong 2021 production numbers are overshadowed by its underperforming Gold Miners Index (GDX) by nearly 20%. The drop was partly…

B2Gold’s (NYSE:BTG) strong 2021 production numbers are overshadowed by its underperforming Gold Miners Index (GDX) by nearly 20%.

The drop was partly due to a record comparative earnings year in 2020 as well as perceived risk in Mali. If recent sanctions do not impact mining operations, B2Gold’s price could start to better reflect its solid fundamentals. 

Low cost producer with strong cash position

Annual production for FY2021 was 1.04M oz. with all-in sustaining costs (AISC) between $870 and $910. AISC for FY2022 are projected to be $1,010-$1,050 due to inflationary pressures. Even so, B2G is poised to remain among the lowest cost producers in the industry.

2021 cash flow from operations is estimated at $650M. The strong cash position with virtually no debt gives the company options for exploration and M&A. $29M has been allocated to grassroots exploration for 2022, highlighting their ambition to continue to grow by drilling.

In the words of chief executive Clive Johnson, “we’ve always been very entrepreneurial, yet we’re very good at the bricks and mortar of our business…. We’ll do deals that other companies may not do.”  

Perceived Mali risks but no impact on production

Over half of B2Gold’s production comes from the Fekola Mine in Mali, where regulatory and geopolitical events have been an ongoing theme. 

There was a military coup in May which, while not impacting operations, created some negative investor sentiment regarding one of Africa’s biggest gold producers. The government’s revocation of an exploration permit for B2Gold’s Menankoto property also caused negative market reaction. Although a permitting agreement was reached in December, recent sanctions on the country imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) raise the possibility of supply disruptions.  

Nonetheless, Fekola exceeded 2021 production estimates with 567,795 oz. and CEO Clive Johnson maintains that it will withstand supply disruptions and meet 2022 targets.     

Source: B2Gold

Image source: b2gold.com

Underexplored jurisdictions

Part of B2Gold’s strategy is to operate and develop in jurisdictions which, while relatively underexplored, are often perceived as higher risk compared to, for instance, Canada, Nevada, or Australia. As Clive Johnson states, “a core part of our strategy is to go where others fear to tread.”

Aside from core operations in Mali, The Philippines, and Namibia, the company has exploration projects in Uzbekistan and Finland as well as a JV development in Colombia. In July 2021, they signed exploration contracts in Egypt.  

In the face of perceived geopolitical risks, Johnson highlights the solid economic foundation gold miners brought to countries during COVID and anticipates B2Gold’s experience and reputation will set it apart.     

Valuation fundamentals

B2Gold offers one of the highest dividends in the industry (4.38%). It is trading at 8.67 times earnings and has healthy current and quick ratios of 4.89 and 2.90, respectively. Price to forward earnings and price to cash flow are both below industry averages.

If perceived Mali risks begin to ease and gold continues to show a strong hand in volatile markets, B2Gold’s value could start to be better reflected in the price.

 

The above references an opinion and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a licensed professional for investment advice. The author is an insider or shareholder of one or more of the companies mentioned above.

The post B2Gold (NYSE:BTG) (TSX:BTO) shows strong production, but Mali risks persist appeared first on MiningFeeds.

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Author: Craig Frayne

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