There is another candidate for “largest Chinese investment in Australia ever.” But this time, it involves an asset that is arguably more strategic than oil and more precious than gold. But before we get to that little drama in the Australian share market (and the five-year opportunity it represents), spare a thought for gold.
In fact, spare a whole weekend for it! You have may have missed the weekend edition of the Daily Reckoning. If you did, you can read it here. While regular editor Alex Cowie was sunning himself in Queensland, we took the opportunity to tell you about what should easily be Australia’s premier conference on gold.
Yes, we know it’s being held in Canberra from November 2nd to the 5th and that it’s during Melbourne Cup week. If you can’t make it then, that’s fine (hopefully there will be a transcript or a video recording). But it should be a great show.
The headliner of the event is Professor Antal Feteke of the Gold Standard Institute. Bron Sucheki from the Perth Mint will be there as well, along with Barry Dawes from Martin Place Securities and yours truly from the Daily Reckoning.
Of course we know a whole four days talking about gold as money and gold stocks isn’t for everyone. But then, everyone couldn’t fit anyway! The venue only holds 160 seats and they are already selling. To find out more contact conference organiser Dr. Marcus Matthews, who is coordinating the event on behalf of the Gold Standard Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’re reading today’s letter from somewhere that is not Australia, maybe you should consider coming to visit. Our old friends at Opportunity Travel (with whom we went to China in 2004) have organised a tour of Australia and New Zealand from January 14th to the 29th, including stops in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland (where they will visit with mining guru Rick Rule).
There’s much more on the agenda. Some of it is business and some of it is pleasure. If you’re an American, it might be a good way to enjoy the purchasing power of your money while it lasts, before the rest of the world stops taking it seriously. Joining and leading the tour is another old friend, Chris Mayer of Capital and Crisis. Your editor will co-sponsor the Melbourne leg of the journey, and perhaps shout the whole group a round at the Prince of Wales across the street.
If you want a look at the full day-by-day itinerary, e-mail Barb Periello at email@example.com or (from the States) call her toll-free at (800) 926-6575 x 104 or direct at (561) 243-6276 x 104. Barb says the program is already more than half full, so if you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch today while there are still a few spots available.
Before we leave the subject of gold altogether, we had a chat about it on the phone yesterday with Neil Charnock, editor and entrepreneur behind www.goldoz.com.au. Neil said his charts were telling him that the bullion price is ready for a move. We asked him if the stocks confirmed that move…or if they led it…or lagged it.”
“A bit of both. It depends on if you’re looking at the majors or the juniors. But overall, the gold sector behaviour is pointing to a very positive run ahead in the coming months. The big caps ran up hard after October last year and have traded on a high plateau ever since. It’s possible they’re just getting slapped about by the funds taking profits as they play the range.”
“Hmm. What about the smaller ones?”
“Well a lot of them were pushed down to crazy valuations late last year. But they’ve been running ever since. Overall, the technicals are telling me that time is running out before the large cap train leaves the station. When you combine this with the smaller cap behaviour you get an obvious sign that gold will break out in the coming weeks and the gold stocks will perform strongly. The last time I saw this type of broad based gold stock action was mid 2005.”
Okay. One last note about gold, albeit indirect. World Bank President Robert Zoellick (an American) shook his countrymen by the shoulders yesterday. “The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency,” he said. “Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options.”
So back to the beginning. What asset is more strategic than oil and more precious than gold? Why arable farmland of course! That was the conclusion we reached yesterday when putting the finishing touches on a report that details the growing number of Sovereign Wealth Funds and corporations buying up vast tracts of farmland in Africa.
It’s been dubbed the “New Colonialism” by some, which is a politically loaded term. But then, land is the sort of the asset that could easily become politically loaded over the next twenty years. A lot of people want (need) arable farm land. Not everyone has it.
You may be wondering what this has to do with the $2.8 billion bid by China’s Sinochem Corp for agrochemical and fertlisier firm Nufarm. That’s just the question we’ve been mulling over. If it goes through, the deal would be China’s largest acquisition of an Aussie asset to date.
But there are some questions to be answered first. Will the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) block the deal? Is it a good value for Nufarm shareholders? Are there more stocks like Nufarm you should know about?
We can’t see any reason why the FIRB would block the deal. But then, if it thought about it, it might. Nufarm doesn’t own arable land, mind you. And most of its sales are generated outside Australia. But it’s not a stretch to call fertiliser and agrichemicals “strategic assets” either.
Is it a good value for Nufarm shareholders? Sinochem is offering $13 a share. That’s a slight premium to yesterday’s closing share price of $11.96. The bid values Nufarm at about $2.8 billion. It’s closer to $4 billion when you include the nearly $1 billion in debt Sinochem will assume if it takes Nufarm over.
That might seem generous, considering Nufarm’s shares slumped all the way to $8 earlier this year. The company has endured three profit downgrades this financial year. Prices for its main product, glyphosphate, have fallen 50% since the credit crisis. That caused Nufarm to write down $63.5 million in inventory when it announced annual results yesterday.
But in 2007, another Chinese firm offered closer to $17 per share. That was based on a much more optimistic earnings forecast and higher glyphosphate prices. Yesterday’s proposal, we reckon, is more than what you’d pay based on the company’s recent financial performance.
But it’s probably less than what you’d pay if you had a bullish outlook on the business for the next, say, ten years. As for the last question, are there more stocks like Nufarm you should know about, the answer is yes! More on them later this week.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia