World class speculators and Chinese firms are accumulating Australian resource companies and commodities. This is the flip side to Australia being a net capital importer and the decline of the U.S. dollar. We rail about Aussie banks borrowing money abroad to invest in a housing bubble at home. But is there an opportunity in all this madness?
Of course there is. George Soros is picking up more shares of gold and potash producers. Mineweb reports that, “Billionaire investor George Soros’ Soros Fund Management substantially raised its shares in PotashCorp as well as invested in gold ETFs during the third quarter. In Form 13F documents filed with the SEC, Soros Fund raised its PotashCorp from 1.98 million shares to 2.95 million shares with a fair market value of $266.4 million.”
And while China and America bicker over currencies, Chinese firms are scrambling to buy real assets. And while Aussie banks source foreign borrowing to lend in local real estate, Aussie mining firms go begging for bits of capital that would bring world-class ore bodies (and key strategic resources) into production…by local producers and owners.
Take Moly Mines. It’s aiming to operate a 10 million tonnes per annum copper and molybdenum mine at Spinifex Ridge in Western Australia. Prior to the credit crisis last year, things were going swimmingly. Molybdenum is a hardening agent used in steel-making. There aren’t a lot of economic ore bodies in the world. Moly, according to the research we published in April of 2008 in Diggers and Drillers, had one of the most economic deposits.
But it all went off the rails with the credit crisis. The company couldn’t secure the funding it needed to bring the project into production. And the share price fell. That made management amenable to any offer that would secure financing and rescue what was still, by all accounts, an immensely valuable and lucrative resource.
Yesterday, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approved a $200 million investment in Moly by China’s Sichuan Hanlong Group. It gives the Chinese group majority control in Moly and could see the development of the project at Spinifex Ridge begin in the middle of next year.
Good on the Chinese for finding a great project to invest in at a bargain price. The truth is, Australia has more good mineral and energy projects than the local capital markets can realistically fund (given the preference by the banks for investing in/spruikin property). BHP CEO Marius Kloppers made this point yesterday in a lecture to the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
Kloppers said there are 74 separate resource projects worth $80 billion the advanced stages of planning. Those projects need capital. “‘Although clearly not simple,” Kloppers said, “a part of the solution lies in continued foreign investment, meaning that both Australia and Australian companies need to be open to this kind of investment, despite its immediate and strategic implications.”
What are those “immediate and strategic implications?” Well, up to now, existing Australian shareholders are being clobbered. Those who owned equity in these projects before the credit crunch have been diluted as the firms in question raised money with rights issues or institutional placements.
That’s fair enough. Owning shares implies an assumption of risk. The stock market is not a savings account. But the other immediate implication is the transfer of majority ownership of these key projects to overseas owners (including the transfer of a big chunk of income from the assets).
This is what it is. And in most cases, it is not an issue of national security. The truth is, many of these projects won’t get off the ground without foreign capital. They will create Australian jobs, export earnings, and share price gains for Australian investors. They will also secure key resources for foreign manufacturers.
There’s no sense getting all lathered up about it. The status quo is a result of Australia’s status as a net capital importer and the investment decisions made with the money Aussie banks have borrowed. The banks could have chosen to invest in Australian mines. But mining is a risky business.
Is it as risky as property? We don’t think so. But the way the Australian property market is currently structured – with the government supporting prices directly through grants and indirectly through miserly land releases, and the banks channeling new lending into the market – it’s a rigged game for the banks. Why wouldn’t they invest in property? It’s certainly in their interest.
Whether there is a national interest at stake in the mining industry is another question. You’d certainly think so, given how much government revenue is derived from royalties and exports. But most state governments and the Federal government seem happy with the current arrangement.
The large producers have an unassailable competitive position. And the smaller explorers and developers are left to their own devices to find capital for their projects. Hey…that’s why they call it capitalism!
For investors with the patience to investigate the smaller fry, it’s a great market. Our new editor of Diggers and Drillers, Alex Cowie, looks like an insomniac in a coffee shop when he comes to the office each morning. There are literally more good stories than he can possibly research.
The important point is that what might be a national problem – selling of mining projects to foreign investors – is an individual investor’s opportunity. You always want to invest where you have an advantage. And as an Aussie resource investor looking at the mid and small caps, you DO have an advantage.
Sure, you may be investing alongside the Chinese, who may be getting a better deal. But there are dozens of smaller projects across the resource spectrum that – as long as the world does not plunge into a second great manufacturing depression – make compelling investment stories.
Murray got back to us with his U.S. dollar index chart. You may recall that the other day we published a chart of the dollar index showing that the short-term and long-term moving averages were in danger of crossing. Murray, a full time technical analyst, basically said our chart looked nice but didn’t communicate any useful information to traders about when to enter or exit positions affected by the dollar’s decline (or rise).
Murray sent over his chart with a note that begins, “The US dollar index is still in strong downtrend. My last update (to Slipstream readers) said that we needed to keep an eye on the 10 week/35 week Moving Average as the confirmation for any change of trend. Also we needed to see a close above around 81 to confirm a re-entry into the distribution between 78 and 89 formed over the last year.”
“None of these indicators are close to being confirmed. So, from a long term perspective, you have to remain bearish the dollar although entry into any short positions is highly risky at this point. Have a look at the chart and you can see that the lowest dotted blue line comes in around a price level of 73 which is close to where we are now.”
“The meaning of the lower dotted blue line is just that it is an area where a false break can occur. So even though the current price action doesn’t look like it is related to the distribution between 78 and 89, it still could be so beware. You can see from the other ranges that I have shown in the chart that a break through the low of the range saw a move to around that lower blue dotted line and then saw a squeeze from there. The first one saw a move all the way back to the top of the range and the second one tried to re-enter its range but ultimately failed.
“The point being, if you had sold down at the lower dotted blue line on either occasion you would have ended up in a difficult position. The market usually looks terrible at those points, but all too often you will see a reversal there which will at least move back to the bottom of the range.
“In this case that would see a move back to 79ish. And from there a re-entry into the range could see a quick move to the point of control at 84 and on to the highs at 90. I think we will see the Dollar create a low somewhere between 67 and 74 and then we will see a big short squeeze to take out traders in what has become a very overcrowded trade.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he concludes. “I still think the US Dollar is toilet paper, but it doesn’t mean it won’t buck around like a wild bronco on its way to fiat currency heaven.”
for The Daily Reckoning Australia