This article is a repeat of a solution to a teaser pitch that Dr. Kent Moors has been marketing very aggressively for almost a year.
Why? Because he and his publishers at Money Map are pushing it very heavily again, as they’ve done every few months, and we’re getting questions… and there have been some developments in the market since the ad started circulating. Our original article was entitled, “The Electricity Crisis that Dr. Kent Moors says could bring 100,000% returns” … so if you already read that one back in May of 2014, you can skip along to the bottom to see the additional info I added six months ago in November (and, if you wish, throw your thoughts and comments into the discussion pile… the original discussion is all still there at the bottom as well).
What follows was published on May 14 and has not been edited or updated other than the November 2014 update at the end. The original comments and discussion are also appended. The stock he focused on most, UEC, has bounced from $1 to $1.80 and back a couple times as uranium prospects (and prices) have fluctuated. Uranium is up a bit again in the last few months, to about $40 now (the recent low is $30, the highs were big spikes to $70 in 2011 and $140 in 2007).
Dr. Kent Moors is pitching the upcoming electricity crisis as a reason to invest in his newsletter and reap your riches from the panic — I imagine you’ve seen this ad, because readers have been peppering me with it since it started running yesterday.
The first couple pages of it are mostly about how horrific things get when electricity production is compromised, with the huge hit to the economy from closed power plants and/or brownouts or rolling blackouts when generation can’t keep up with demand. He has a graph he uses over and over again that shows a gap, at some undetermined point in the near future, where electricity demand will be 16% higher than generation capacity. Here’s a bit of the spiel:
“Bottom line: The cost of a 16% electricity void would result in the massive loss of human lives and trillions of dollars.
“And make no mistake, we are on the brink of a crisis… a 16% electricity void that could decimate the global economy…
“Of course, world leaders aren’t going to let that happen. And in the rush to solve the crisis… you have an extraordinary opportunity.”
Here’s some more of Dr. Moors whetting our appetite:
“…this has happened twice before in the history of energy.
“Both times, it created a slew of new millionaires.
“In fact, the last time this happened, folks who got in early and followed the right signs had a chance to turn $1,000 into $1 million. And that’s on just one trade…
“The evidence makes the case: This crisis is happening again for the third time. And while it’s not 100%, there’s no denying this opportunity could change your life.
“I’ve been tracking this situation for eight years waiting for the right moment to get in. And I can tell you without a doubt:
“The pendulum is starting to swing and the upside is going to be huge.”
OK, so… wanna get a 10,000% return? Me, too! How does he think we can do that?
Well, as you’d know if you had the patience to sit through the first interminable minutes of the presentation or read through a few pages of blather (don’t worry, there’s no shame in NOT reading that far — sifting the blather every day is the strange path we’ve taken, but most people aren’t goofy enough to do that), he’s teasing nuclear energy and uranium. Here’s a bit of that:
“World Leaders Agree: This Fuel is Vital
“As I mentioned, I advise 27 governments on energy matters. And I can tell you right now, every single one of them considers this fuel vital to the world’s energy mix.
“In other words, we can’t do without it. Period.
“That’s because this fuel can do what oil, natural gas, and coal can’t.
“Like I said, it’s 9,500 times more powerful than oil… and 100 times cheaper.Are you getting our free Daily Update
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“And get this: This fuel is 100% clean. In fact, it generates zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“In other words, unlike oil, natural gas or coal… it won’t kill the planet.
“As you probably guessed, I’m talking about uranium… the fuel that generates nuclear power.
“Now, I realize nuclear power is very controversial, especially after the accident in Japan in 2011.
“And maybe you’re in favor of nuclear power, and maybe you aren’t.
“But the fact remains, nuclear power is an essential part of the global energy mix, accounting for 16% of the world’s electricity.”
Not the first time we’ve heard the “uranium will boom again” argument, to be sure — uranium collapsed after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which spurred both the shutdown of Japan’s large nuclear fleet and the global “rethink” on nuclear power, particularly in Western democracies that have the luxury of debate and hand-wringing, but it has also been widely predicted as a commodity likely to boom both because of Japan’s gradual re-start and the continuing development of new nuclear plants in China and India, and because of the drop in supply (at least to the US) caused by the end of the “megatons to megawatts” program that had us cooperating with Russia to recycle their unneeded plutonium into uranium fuel. The end of “megatons to megawatts” was actually on December 31 last year, so I’ve been expecting uranium prices to rise this year — and many investors (and newsletters) have been predicting sharp jumps.
You can check out his presentation here if you’d like to see his arguments about Japan and Germany desperately needing to reconsider their fear of nuclear energy, and about the many countries who rely on uranium for at least a quarter of their electricity (particularly those who would otherwise be completely dependent on natural gas from Putin’s Gazprom or on coal).
But yes, the basic pitch is, “uranium prices should surge” — here’s some more, in his words:
“Uranium Demand is Off the Charts
“Right now, there are 434 nuclear plants worldwide consuming about 180 million pounds of uranium per year.
“Annual supply is only about 140 million pounds per year.
“That’s a 40 million pound supply gap! And it’s only going to grow…
“Already, there are plans to add 553 more nuclear plants worldwide… 70 of which are already under construction or ready to come online.
“That’s more than DOUBLE… and it’s only the beginning….
“…during the last uranium boom, prices soared 13-fold… to hit $140 per pound.”
In many ways this is similar to other “something’s gotta give” pitches — uranium demand increasing, uranium is currently (at $35 a pound or so) changing hands for prices that are too low to spur any development of new mines or expansion of old ones. Moors says that stockpiles are being depleted (like megatons to megawatts), and that $70 is really the price producers need …
“The price must go up – to at least $70 per pound – or uranium supply will disappear.”
And, unlike with most industries, the consumers are not price-sensitive — nuclear power plants don’t shut down because of high fuel prices the way a coal or gas plant might, because the vast majority of the cost is in building and maintaining the plant, not in buying the fuel. Uranium prices have very little impact on the price they have to charge for electricity to make a profit — the interest rate on the massive capital investment required to build the plant, and the cost of safety and maintenance operations, are both larger issues than uranium prices. Here’s what Moors says that means:
“Once their supply is threatened, once they feel the pressure of disappearing stockpiles, the nuclear plants are going to panic and drive prices through the roof.
“And once the price starts to move higher, it will just keep on going…
“This is what happened in 1973 when the price of uranium soared 10-fold. It’s what happened in 2003 when the price of uranium soared 13-fold.
“And it’s what’s going to happen again, for the third time, very soon. The pendulum is starting to swing, and now’s the time to act.”
So what should you buy? Well, obviously he’s suggesting we buy some sort of uranium stock. Here’s how he describes the situation for uranium miners:
“… during the last uranium boom, these companies took huge amounts of investment capital from other investors… and sunk it into their uranium operations.
“And now they are literally sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in equipment, infrastructure, permits, and geologists.
“In other words, their ‘war chests’ are loaded to the brim!
“But here’s the thing… because of low uranium prices, this immense capital investment isn’t reflected in their share price.
“In other words, these are world-class companies… armed to the teeth… selling for pennies on the dollar….
“And while I can’t promise we’ll see a 100,000% rise like Paladin did last time… the upside potential is there.”
So yes, finally, we do get down to the actual tease — he has four uranium investments to share with you today if you’ll subscribe to his Energy Inner Circle (currently “on sale” for $1,995, roughly half of the “list” price). One of them he gives away for free (yes, it’s the super obvious one), and three are “secret” picks he will explain to his subscribers.
But he does let loose with some hints and clues, naturally, to get you intrigued and excited — so we can tell you what the stocks are if you happen to be one of those intrepid souls who prefers to do your own research.
The freebie is, as you would have guessed the first time I typed the word “uranium”, Cameco (CCJ). Cameco is, as Moors says, the “blue chip” company in uranium, the only really large pure play on uranium mining. He says that “if you’re looking for a world-class ‘blue chip’ that offers good upside, Cameco is a good bet.”
And it’s pretty hard to argue with that — it won’t go up 100,000% because it’s not dirt cheap, it’s already producing, and it’s not a pie-in-the-sky explorer that can leverage a big discovery. But if uranium goes to $70 or spikes even higher, they’ll sure make a lot more money than they do today. They’re reasonably priced at about 15X next year’s earnings, they have a long-lived mine (albeit one that has had some problems, particularly with flooding that delayed production for years — mining is almost never a “safe bet” kind of industry, particularly if you rely on one mine for most of your revenue), and they have a solid enough balance sheet that they can even comfortably pay a nice little dividend.
But it’s a $10 billion company, you’ve almost certainly heard of them, and you can go form an opinion on your own. How about the “secret” stocks he teases?
Here’s the first one, and the pitch is thick and gooey:
“If you’re looking for maximum upside… and you could only own one uranium company to position yourself for the coming boom… this would be the one.
“Years down the road, when people talk about the uranium boom of 2014… this is going to be the company they point to and say, ‘My God, I wish I’d gotten in.’
“You have a chance, right now, to do just that…
“And listen, you’ll be in very good company. In fact, some of the savviest minds in the world are taking a serious stake in this company.
“For example, Li Ka-Shing – the richest man in Asia with a net worth of $33 billion – is loading up on this company.”
Some more details? We learn that Rick Rule, the noted resource investment banker, is also a shareholder, and that Spencer Abraham, former US Energy Secretary, is their Chairman. That pretty much gives us a definitive answer, but here’s a little more just to heighten the suspense:
“This company went public at the PEAK of the last uranium boom in 2007… issuing 89.5 million shares at the price of roughly $7.
“In other words, they raised about $625 million…
“What did they do with the money?
“Simple. They invested in their future… and prepared themselves for the next boom.
“They bought things like equipment, technology, infrastructure, permits, and mining rights… everything they needed to run a profitable operation.
“But here’s the thing… when uranium prices dropped, their stock price dropped to where it sits today – at about $1 per share, giving them a market cap of about $100 million”
It’s a funny kind of argument, that this company has already blown through half a billion dollars in seven years and therefore has become a great buy now — but there is some logic to it if their investments have really added value (reserves, equipment, production capacity) to their asset. So who is it? This is Uranium Energy Corp (UEC).
UEC has been a hotly debated stock over the last decade or so, going up and down on both promotional chatter (and short sellers who derided its stock promoter roots, like this Citron piece from 2010) and on the prospects for uranium. They didn’t actually raise $600+ million in their IPO, but the IPO was for about half that much on the AMEX back in 2007, and I’m sure they’ve raised more money since. They have some uranium production now, but it’s very small scale — their biggest project is the Goliad in-situ recovery project in Texas, and they also have a few neighboring projects that they think they can advance as “hub and spoke” additions near the core processing plant when it comes online.
The development of Goliad has taken many years, it’s at least a few years behind the original schedule — but I guess that’s no surprise, given weak uranium prices. They are explicitly soft-pedaling now, they say, to make sure they don’t ramp up production until prices recover. Production is on track to start this year, they say, but they are expecting uranium prices to recover this year to make it viable. And they are essentially stockpiling potential projects, with about 25 projects on their list, almost all of which are at the “exploration” stage and not currently the focus of investment — all but a couple of them are in the US, mostly in historically producing uranium areas in Wyoming, Colorado and the Southwest.
Will uranium prices really leap higher this year? Well, so far the answer is a resounding “not yet” — they’ve continued to fall, from the $40 that seemed too cheap a year ago to the $35 that seemed like a “breaking point” at the beginning of 2014, to now (depending on who you ask — there’s not really a “spot market” for uranium) dipping below $30. UEC’s cash costs for their existing production are in the $20-25 neighborhood, I presume that Goliad is cheaper but I don’t know — these are very low-grade deposits, but it’s also an in-situ recovery and refining process that I don’t really understand. This is very different from the massive high-grade uranium deposits in the Athabasca region of Canada, which are unique in having big, 10%+ uranium grades (like at Cameco’s Saskatchewan mines), but lower-grade deposits using in situ recovery are not unique to UEC — Cameco also uses in situ recovery at their US mines and in Kazakhstan, and presumably other global producers do as well, and many of them are apparently profitable to operate (if not build) with uranium at $30 a pound, so the high grades at the unusual Saskatchewan mines don’t necessarily mean that low grade mines can’t be developed or compete (and Cameco’s mines have been both geological and technical challenges in many ways, so high grade isn’t everything).
There are many factors impacting uranium pricing, including production and demand but also the drawdown of stockpiles around the world, uncertainty of new plant demand, the closing of old plants for performance reasons (old age) or political reasons, etc. There’s an interesting quick interview here about the current state of the market and the viability of the oft-rumored “Uranium Renaissance” if you want to get your head around it — interestingly, one thing that jumped out from that note for me was the analyst’s forecast that higher prices wouldn’t really come until 2016.
Which means … I don’t really know whether UEC will leap higher this year. It has continued to fall as uranium prices have fallen (except for this week, when Moors’ attention is doubtless sending the price higher — it doesn’t take much to make a $100 million stock all jiggly), and as they have failed to say anything particularly aggressive about boosting production immediately. Bulls and bears have debated the stock loudly at Seeking Alpha and elsewhere, and it’s a tiny little stock that bounces around like crazy on this attention, so beware — but I can certainly see it being among the more highly-levered names to the price of uranium if we do indeed get a huge spike in prices.
For full disclosure, I have some very speculative (and so far money-losing) options positions in both CCJ and UEC, my own little bet from a few months back that uranium chatter (and prices) would rise this year and the stocks might surge. Hasn’t happened so far.
UEC was clearly the stock that most excited Moors in this pitch, he closes with some speculation about the possible economics of their operations:
“At $70 per pound, this company has the capacity to produce five million pounds per year… five times their current production.
“And while they’re currently making about 50 cents per pound with uranium prices at $35… when prices go to the necessary $70… they’re all of a sudden making $35 per pound.
“And again, they have the capacity to produce five million pounds.
“So instead of making 50 cents per pound on one million pounds… they’d be making $35 per pound on five million pounds.
When uranium prices rise, their gross profits could explode from $584,000 to about $175 million… a staggering 300-fold increase.”
And Myron Martin, who writes a mining column for us, has also been a big UEC fan, calling it his favorite uranium stock back in December (he also had a followup on some other uranium juniors here, by the way).
But UEC wasn’t the only stock teased for Dr. Moors’ Energy Inner Circle — we’ve got two more.
I know, I’m getting a little tired of writing this one… and I’m sure by now you’re tired of reading it. But we’ve come this far. What are the other two investments?
Here’s the first one:
“One investment opportunity I’ve uncovered allows you to tap into the entire market… and profit from both rising uranium prices and the rapidly expanding nuclear power industry.
“The exciting thing is, this investment gives you boots on the ground in the biggest uranium-producing countries in the world, including Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan, Niger, and Russia.
“Plus, it gives you an interest in some of the most lucrative mining operations on the planet.
“For example, this investment gives you access to Canada’s MacArthur River Project, the largest uranium mine in the world.
“By the way, the ore grades at this mine are over 100 times the global average, making this project insanely lucrative.
“In addition, this investment gives you access to an exciting new uranium discovery in the world’s most important uranium district: Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin.
“This discovery was so unexpected – and so potentially lucrative because of its high-grade ore deposits – that it created a ‘staking frenzy’ as mining companies rushed to claim adjacent properties.
“When you add it all up, this investment allows you to tap into $80 billion of proven uranium reserves… all for just $17.
“As uranium prices rise – and remember, they need to double to keep the lights on – the value of these assets could double, triple, or more… sending this investment soaring.
“And uranium is only the tip of the iceberg for this investment. In fact, this investment gives you access to every aspect of the nuclear power industry.”
Well, Thinkolator sez this one is not a stock, it’s an ETF — the Global X Uranium ETF (URA)
Which does have exposure to most of the huge uranium mines and producers in the world, including nearly a quarter of its portfolio in Cameco and 10% in Denison Mines (DNN), and it also invests substantial chunks in Paladin, Uranerz and other producers… and owns little bites of a bunch of smaller junior names.
But it ain’t at $17 anymore, you can now pick up shares for a bit under $15 if you’re interested. URA has been the ugly stepchild of the nuclear ETF space, with several horrible years compared to the rather flat-to-decent performance of NLR and NUCL, the two broader “nuclear energy” ETFs, but that’s because URA is just uranium companies and NLR and NUCL are really utility ETFs that mostly own nuclear power companies (which are almost all broad-based utilities, like Duke Power and Exelon, who have nuclear plants as part of their portfolio). NLR and NUCL will probably be impacted (very gradually) by the popularity of nuclear power, but they move mostly with the broader utility sector and aren’t driven by the price of uranium — URA is.
And we’re still not done! One more uranium name pitched to us by Dr. Moors:
“The opportunity I’m going to show you now is a pure price play… and allows you to profit from uranium’s imminent rise with very minimal risk.
“We’ve already established that uranium prices must rise. Right now, they’re at $35 per pound.
“But unless prices are at $70 per pound, miners are not going to produce. Stockpiles are vanishing at 465,000 pounds per day… and unless prices rise, the lights are going out….
“the investment I’m tracking today is a new way to play uranium. It’s the brainchild of resource billionaire Eric Sprott, and it wasn’t even available during the last uranium boom.
“This investment allows you to own pure uranium… and profit from the price rise… without actually having to take possession of the uranium yourself.
“In fact, this investment allows you to participate in the coming uranium price rise… without the typical exploration, development or mining risks associated with owning stocks… they have fully licensed warehouses throughout the U.S., Canada, and France chock-full of pure uranium. About 10 million pounds worth….
“Goldman Sachs is sitting on 5,500 tons of pure uranium… and now you can too.”
So who is this? Uranium Participation Corp (U in Toronto, URPTF on the pink sheets). Which was indeed inspired by Eric Sprott, and which is essentially trying to be a “physical ETF” for uranium — they buy it (under the auspices of Denison Mines, which is their regulatory partner but doesn’t control the company) and warehouse it, with the hope of selling it in the future at higher prices.
And one hesitates to sound like a broken record when saying “hasn’t worked yet” … Uranium Participation has been around since the mid-2000s, it was started just in time to participate in the 2007 uranium “bubble”, but since that 2007 spike it’s been mostly downhill (save the brief jump up for uranium pricing in early 2011 just before the Fukushima disaster). They stockpile both U308, which is the main uranium fuel we think of, and Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6), which is used in uranium enrichment. I haven’t looked closely at what it costs them to warehouse this stuff, or how much trading in and out of it they might do at any given time, but they’re fairly passive and should generally be priced based on the current net asset value (NAV) of their warehoused uranium and on your expectations for where those uranium prices are headed.
Currently, U.TO is priced at about a 10% premium to their April 30 NAV — and that NAV was based on uranium a dollar or two higher than most folks report the price now. It’s a fairly simple proposition on this one — if uranium doubles, the NAV should double and the stock price might jump slightly more if folks bid it up to trade at a bigger premium. If uranium falls, the NAV should fall by about the same percentage and the stock may fall a bit lower if investor disgust with uranium causes it to trade at a discount to NAV. That means the possible pricing moves are far, far smaller for U.TO than they are for a miner, even a huge miner like Cameco, because miners should provide a levered response to the price of the underlying commodity (to simplify: if uranium doubles, the costs to produce it don’t necessarily double so profit should go up much faster than the commodity price, which would drive the stock price of producers higher… all else being equal, which it never is).
So there you have it — the consensus grows for a “uranium must go up in price” assessment, but even though the logic is sound the pricing has not, so far, responded to the logic… and the logic can’t tell us where and how large existing stockpiles of uranium are, or how quickly they enter the marketplace, or where political sentiment will go in major nuclear countries like France or Japan, or in waffling countries like the US and Germany, or in emerging and growing nuclear power producers like China and India. I do think we’ll likely see higher prices, and I thought we’d see them this year — but I could easily be wrong or early… and we should always be at least a little skeptical during times like this, when it seems like ALL the newsletter jockeys are 100% certain that uranium prices are on the verge of doubling.
It’s your money, though, so what do you think? Will the Japanese reactor restart get uranium prices rising? (They presumably have large stockpiles from their two years of shutdown too, don’t forget) Will nuclear power recover and grow as projected? Are we going to see a surge in uranium prices that drives the miners higher? Let us know with a comment below.
This pitch, the current version of which you can see here, is essentially the same one Dr. Moors used early in the year, and you can’t be blamed for wondering when the uranium price might recover or what Moors meant by a price spike being “imminent” or “in the coming months.”
Just this week there has been a brief spurt of optimism, with spot prices coming back up to the $35 level they were at when Moors first teased this back in the Spring (they since fell down below $30 before bouncing back up again). Spot prices don’t mean a lot, though, since most producers sell on long-term deals… but they are a potential indicator. And UEC is still essentially sitting on its hands waiting for better prices.
As far as the actual prices and when pricing might rise sustainably again for uranium, Moors says this:
“With uranium demand exceeding supply by 40 million pounds, the only thing keeping the lights on is existing stockpiles…
“And those are disappearing at the rate of 465,000 pounds per day.
“At best, they’ll last six months.”
But that’s not necessarily the complete picture. In a recent interview that I found interesting, a uranium stock analyst (Colin Healey from Haywood Securities) noted that although the energy companies are gradually becoming more dependent on primary producers than on stockpiles for supply, the market has been in oversupply for so long that it’s a gradual process.
And importantly, Healey notes the much larger impact that new reactors (being fueled for the first time) have on the uranium market than do existing reactors that need regular partial refueling, so those 70 “planned and under construction” reactors expected to come online in the next few years are an important driver — restarting reactors in Japan is expected to help change sentiment next year, but not demand, since Japan is believed to have large stockpiles of uranium fuel. His firm, for whatever it’s worth, has a target price of $39.50 for uranium next year and $56 in 2016 and $75 “long term” … so it may be that we have to get to that “long term”, or at least an expectation of it among industry players, before there’s a lot more restarting of mines.
The full interview is here if you want to see it, I don’t (of course) know if he’s going to end up being right with his forecasts, but it’s a well-explained position — and his firm currently has “hold” ratings on Uranium Energy and Paladin Energy (PDN in Toronto, PALAY on the pink sheets) and “buy” ratings on Uranerz (URZ) and Ur-Energy (URE, URG in Toronto) and Denison Mines (DNN, DML in Toronto). I don’t know most of those intimately, though Paladin seems the riskiest because of their balance sheet issues (lots of debt due next year) — I mostly shared this interview info because I found that analyst’s nuanced position to be more compelling than Dr. Moors’ certainty.
I’ve kept the old comments on this article from May, so you can see those below — and if you’ve anything to add, or a perspective on uranium or any of these miners, or a likely trend for global nuclear power, well, I hope you’ll add your thoughts to the discussion. Thanks!