Agnico-Eagle Mines, Ltd. (NYSE:AEM)
Wall Street Analyst Forum 20th Annual Analyst Conference
June 8, 2009 10:30 am ET
Jay Basal – Wall Street Analyst Forum
David Smith – VP of IR
All right, good morning, everybody. We are going to keep things rolling right along. My name is Jay Basal [ph] of the Wall Street Analyst Forum. And I will be your host for the remainder of the day. At this time, I would ask anyone with the cell phone or mobile device to switch it into the off or silent position as to not interrupt the presentation and in accordance with the University Club’s cell phone policy. And after the presentation, you may join us in the breakout room, in the adjacent room and for a Q&A.
And our presenter today is Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited and they are an international growth company, focused on gold with operations in Quebec and Finland and advanced base project and opportunities in Canada, Mexico, Finland and the US. Their LaRonde mine in Quebec is Canada’s largest operating gold mine. In terms of reserves, the mine generates strong earnings and cash flows and is an excellent foundation for Agnico’s international expansion.
So without further ado, I will give you David Smith, who is the Vice President of Investor Relations.
Thanks very much, Jay. And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming today to listen to the presentation on Agnico-Eagle. I find it very interesting that we are speaking after a real estate investment company, who seems to be a very conservative company, has a long operating history and that is really quite similar to Agnico-Eagle.
Agnico-Eagle has been around for 52 years and is a very conservative company. W.P. Carey’s Annual Report as we saw had a tortoise and the hare on the front cover. We also think of ourselves as the tortoise to tell the truth. In fact, a recent issue of a Canadian business magazine had our CEO racing a tortoise and in fact he did beat the tortoise and for those of you that would like to know.
Certainly I will be covered by the forward-looking statements. Gold is in a very interesting position these days. We have put up a couple of interesting quotes here on page four. This is from our 1999 Annual Report and really I think it has hit home again that even 10 years later, we still believe that gold has a very solid place for everybody’s portfolio. Certainly gold is money and I think there are probably a couple of generations of North Americans anyway that have forgotten that gold is money.
I think unfortunately we are going to remember over the next several years. Certainly Europeans, you go to Switzerland and speak with the Swiss and they don’t have to be convinced that there is a place for gold in the portfolio. We certainly at Agnico believe very strongly in the outlook for gold.
My view on gold is really quite simplistic. I think that the velocity of money is obviously fallen off a cliff, but the money supply has gone through the roof. At some point in the future, in the next several years, I believe that the velocity of money will naturally rebound to some more normalized rate and I believe that that will bring inflation with it. And in an inflationary environment, gold has typically performed extremely well.
Slide five really – really says the corporate strategy for Agnico. We are a conservative company, but we are very focused on per share evaluations. We really have no interest in becoming a larger company just for the sake of being bigger. There certainly are some – some of our competitors that some might accuse them of getting larger just for the sake of being larger, but Agnico is not one of those companies. And again going back to that tortoise and hare analogy, certainly having been around 52 years and still really being a midsized company at this point, I don’t think you can really accuse us of that.
Further on the corporate strategy on slide 6, we are the number one growth story in the gold business out of any company of any significance anyhow. We are doubling our gold production this year. We are doubling our gold production again next year and that by far is the best growth profile in the industry. On top of growing production, I have got some slides on these points. We are also growing our gold reserves. We are at record levels now. We expect to continue growing those again on a per share basis and I will get into that a little bit more as we go through the presentation.
Conservative company, we think or we acquire small but think big. We go to where our geologists have pointed us and they believe that there is a lot more gold to find. Now if you get into early stage opportunities in the mining business, there is a good chance if your geologists are right that you can create excess per share value without issuing a lot of – a lot of new shares. So if you get into a multibillion dollar transactions, we think that’s where you get into a bit of trouble creating per share value through a cycle.
Certainly if you get bigger into a ball running gold, you could certainly create value to the shareholders. But I think through the entire cycle and it is a cycle I think that is very important to keep the number of shares outstanding at a very low level. We are a low cost leader in this business. We have been in the lowest cost quartile. We expect to remain in the lowest cost quartile as well. And we do have a very conservative balance sheet and our financial profile is always maintained in a way that people would consider us to be conservative in spite of a very healthy CapEx over the next – last number of years as you will see.
I will go quickly through the operating results. This is old news by now. This is March 31st data. I think it is important to see that we are moving in 2009, as I said, we are doubling our gold production. We are expecting 550000, 575000 ounces of gold from one of our particular mines LaRonde in Northwestern Quebec. We also have significant byproduct production, silver, zinc, copper and in fact lead as well. The only other property we have that has any byproducts at all is our Pinos Altos mine opening later this year in Mexico that as many mines in Mexico do has a silver byproduct.
So if you look back and are somewhat confused by the graphic on the right side of slide seven here, the reason we had negative cash costs in terms of ounces of gold in ’06 and ’07 was of course because the price of zinc was extremely high. So in fact, the revenue that we gained from our zinc production at our LaRonde mine exceeded the cost of doing business. And so when you put it in terms of gold, it was actually a negative cost. The other way to look at this was zinc paid for everything we did, our gold, our silver and our copper and our lead were produced for free. That’s a good business.
So certainly first quarter, we were at $340 per ounce, lowest cost quartile. We think going forward, a steady state production, once all our new mines are built; we should be in the neighborhood of $300 to $350 per ounce cash cost certainly at $900, $950 gold. That is an extremely good business.
Financial results, it’s clear that we have good earnings in cash flow. Certainly the variability has been from the fall off in the price of zinc. Now that’s recently bounced back, so that’s good for our company. We think this year will be in the neighborhood of $250 million of operating cash flow. Certainly as we double our production again next year, we would expect higher levels of cash flow in 2010.
Balance sheet is important. At the end of March, we had about $210 million in cash. We had available credit of about $130 million. Our CapEx for the year post March 31st was about $385 million. So certainly with our expectation of another $200 million this year in operating cash flow, you can see clearly that we are fully funded for our growth. We have undertaken a program of building five gold – new gold mines all at the same time. Extremely difficult to do and thank fully we are nearly finished. It’s been very hard on our people, but credit to them for fighting through what was a very challenging period for our company.
Very, very important to note here the number of shares outstanding. After 52 years of operating, we have a 170 million shares fully diluted. If you compare that to our peer group, none of them have been operating for 52 years. You will see that they have 300 million, 400 million, 600 million, 900 million shares outstanding. I believe again, but going forward on a per share basis, we will have a better opportunity to create per share value based on this discipline.
Getting into our growth portfolio here, I mentioned already we – the gold production is doubling. What has led to the increase in production of course is an increase in gold reserves. Again a focus on per share value here, in the last 11 years, our shares outstanding have gone up about three times. Our reserves have gone up about 14 times. Again this is a very, very simple way to create value for your shareholders. Increase their exposure on a per share basis to the product, in this case gold. And this is only gold reserves; this is not gold equivalent, so certainly we have copper reserves, silver reserves, zinc reserves and some lead reserves as well. We are actually going to be a very significant producer of silver and in fact have larger silver reserves in some primary silver mining companies.
Again I think this is a very important slide to think about, because that per share focus is really evident here. And I think going forward, as you can see from our estimate, 2010 by the end of the year, we expect to be 20 million to 21 million ounces of gold reserves, again without issuing very many shares on that at all.
Of course an increase in reserve per share as I said should lead to an increase in production per share and on slide 12 we see that. 2010, we are getting up to very high levels of production per share. In fact, by public estimates and some of the analyst research that I have looked at, really I think only Barrick and Newmont are two industry leaders would be able to exceed Agnico, really a midsized company on production per share. Those two companies I think are on declining to flat profiles on this metric and I believe Agnico is obviously growing very, very rapidly. This is again something we pay a lot of attention to and we think is very important to create per share value.
This leads to our production growth chart. You can see here between 2008 and 2010, we are doubling our production and doubling it again. What this chart shows is a general flattening off post 2010. However we do have four internal growth opportunities at four of the six projects that we have where we believe we can increase the production through internal expansion. Again this should be at similar cash cost. You see here, we should be averaging between $300 and $350 per ounce, bottom quartile of the industry, so certainly a very good position.
Now increasing your production per share leads to something that I think any financial person can easily understand and that is of course an increase in cash flow per share. And we don’t – we are not allowed by the SEC to provide forward-looking cash flow per share information, but certainly the sell side does. And I can say that I believe it was Merrill Lynch and most of the industry participants on the sell side have Agnico in 2010 drawn between $4 and $5 per share of cash flow, certainly very, very strong levels and that’s at slight gold prices or slightly increase in gold prices. I think most of the gold analysts that I follow and I do follow 23 of them that cover Agnico-Eagle. I think they are all between $9.50 and $10.50 in general in terms of price of gold. So there is no wild increase in the price of gold required for Agnico to generate extremely healthy cash flow per share and I think obviously that’s a very important business metric.
Now, of course, if the price of gold does go wild, frankly, I hope it doesn’t go too wild, because that would be probably very bad news for the economy around the world. But I do believe it is very possible for gold to get to an all time high in real terms, which would be something north of $2000 an ounce. I think that could happen in the next several years as we see healthy signs of inflation coming. Certainly Agnico’s cash flow at those levels would be incredible.
Like to remind people, I am sure nobody actually experienced it first hand, but Homestake Mining during the Great Depression managed to payout $171 per share in dividends over those seven years. Absolutely incredible considering the price of gold was actually tapped by the government at the time at $35 per ounce. But you can really see that there can be very healthy cash generated in difficult economic times and I think that’s why gold is really viewed as a hedge for a portfolio. And really on that note, if you are looking in times of crisis, if you are looking to gold as your insurance policy, as your hedge, I think a company like Agnico is a good company to look at. Certainly the other producing companies like the Barricks and the Newmonts and the Gold Corps., are very good companies as well. And those companies I think would be there for you in times of crisis.
Now, if your hedge is a cashless junior explorer in the Congo, I think there is probably a fairly good chance that that insurance policy may not be there for you. So certainly be careful when you are investing in gold. We like to position our company as close to the gold bullion as we can. Certainly if you are looking a risk spectrum, I guess those cashless junior explorers are on one end and then the actual gold buyers on the end in terms of risk. We like to put our company close to the gold bar, very conservative company, very low political risk, which I will get to.
Now again our CapEx as I have mentioned, $385 million for the last nine months of this year. Our big year was in fact last year. We spent about $900 million last year and again we are fully funded for this pipeline. I mentioned those for internal growth opportunities, I think starting in 2010, if you layered another $100 million per year over the next five years, that’s probably in the ballpark of where we will be. Now again if we are generating $4 and $5 per share of cash flow, you can see that we are easily funded for our growth going forward as well.
In fact, really (inaudible) the question, what are you going to do with your excess money? We have paid a dividend for 27 consecutive years. We will surely continue to pay a dividend. We would like to increase that dividend. It would be a goal of ours to be the number one dividend paying North America gold stock. Frankly, that doesn’t take much, because investing in gold mining, the best thing you can do with your investor’s money is to reinvest it in the ground where you get two to three times net asset value because of the gold multiple. But again if we got up 1% dividend yield, I think that would be close to the top of the North American sector and I think that’s a good place for us. So hopefully, we will have the opportunity to get there.
Talking about the quality of the operations that our company has, here’s where we will talk about the political risk aspect. I already mentioned cashless junior explorers in the Congo. Seriously, that is a risky investment. At Agnico, we are very determined to operate in regions where we are welcomed not only by the governments, the regional governments, but by the towns and municipalities where we want to operate.
If you are not welcomed, then mining is going to be even more difficult. And frankly, mining is hard enough to begin with. So really we only want to go where we are welcomed. For us that means North America, we are certainly feeling very welcomed in Northern Europe in Finland. I just got back from Finland on Friday. We had our grand opening ceremony at our brand new Kittila mine over there. Great support locally and federally in all of these locations.
Certainly Mexico is a great place for mining, very prolific history of mining in Northern Mexico. Now we kind of have Mexico in half. We like Northern Mexico a lot more than we like Southern Mexico. Certainly Quebec is where most of our assets, about half of our reserves are based. Quebec is ranked as the number one jurisdiction in the world by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank and that was rated in terms of mineral potential and mineral policy and we would certainly agree with that analysis. Quebec is a fantastic place to do business.
I will go very, very quickly through the operations. I really don’t need to bore you unless any of you are mining engineers like myself and we can talk about mining details maybe after the fact. Probably I am the only one that would be really interested in that. But LaRonde is the flagship operation that any great company needs. This is world class by every definition. It’s been operating since 1988. The current mine life goes through 2022 and frankly some of the best drill holes we have got are at the bottom of the deposits, so we expect it’s possible anyhow to continue mining through 2022 as well.
What we are doing at LaRonde right now and this is the engine of earnings and cash flow that has allowed us to expand this company so dramatically. What we are doing there now is extending the infrastructure to get out that deeper ore, so we are putting an internal shaft in there right now, it’s going very well. What’s important to both the deeper ore is that the gold grades are about 75% higher than what we are mining right now. The value of the base metals is actually lower, because the grades fall off there. However, upon average, the value of the ore in the deeper mine is about 50% higher than what we are mining right now. And again very strong earnings and cash flow from LaRonde, so we are very excited. LaRonde continues to operate beautifully.
Our next new mine that opened last year was Goldex. It is only 30 miles down the road to the East of LaRonde in Northwestern Quebec. I am on page 18, for those of you following on the Internet. Goldex has ramped up beautifully as well. It’s really operating as expected right now. It is a very interesting mine, because we have had an interest in this for 37 years. It normally doesn’t take us 37 years to build our mines out. But this one as you will notice is actually a fairly low grade underground mine, it’s 2.1 grams per ton.
Certainly, my eyebrows went up a little bit when I first saw those numbers. But the secret to mine in Goldex is to mine at that high production rates. So due to our expansions at LaRonde over the years, we really learned how to move a lot of rock from underground and we applied that expertise at Goldex and we are able to reengineered all the high tonnage underground operation. LaRonde is 7,200 tons per day. This is about 6,900 tons per day, looking at expansion there. But a mine that some people said would never work is now making a profit of about $2000 per day, so we are very, very proud of this mine. Certainly the synergies from being near by our very large LaRonde deposit are fantastic and really a great place to do business.
Kittila in Finland, this mine is just starting up now. It poured its first gold in January. We are continuing to commission the mill where we have had some small metallurgical issues here. When we put out our press release at the end of April for the first quarter results, we were getting mill recovery of about 30% versus feasibility recoveries were expected to be about 83%. So certainly that was not acceptable and something have changed from when we started the mine up in January and by the time we rolled around in the first quarter results in April.
We were getting higher recovery rates in January when we started that even as high as 60% to 70%, so something changed and we had to go back and look at this. We’ve had a number of world experts looking at it now and I am very pleased to say that just in a matter of a few weeks, we have been able to get the recovery rates up much higher. The average in May was 55%. We have had near-term peaks of 65%. So certainly we are very confident and we are getting this metallurgy sorted out and it’s all going in the right direction.
A little more detail on the commissioning of Kittila on slide 20. Now, the important thing about Kittila, this will be our biggest expansion. The expected production rate here is about 150,000 ounces per year. The study that we are undertaking right now that will be done by the end of this year is to at least double the production rate to 300,000 ounces per year and more. This is where we have had the most exploration success out of any of our properties to date, I guess LaRonde excluded, but that goes back to 1988.
At Kittila, we are continuing to drill. The limit of the surface drilling was about 1,100 meters. The best, thickest, richest of the holes we have had on the deposit are generally down at – there is a 1,100 meter limit. So we expect as we get further undergrounds here, we have got our ramp system going down, we will be able to expand that infrastructure and be able to drill deeper from underground. We should be able to dramatically expand this deposit again and that’s really driving this expansion study. So again, by the end of the year, look for the news.
And again, all of these expansions, the foreign expansions and to name them, they are Goldex going from 6,900 tons per day to at least 8,000 tons per day. Kittila at least doubling the production rate to 3000 tons per day. Meadowbank 8,500 tons per day to 10,000 tons per day and Pinos Altos, again about a 20% increase to the production rate there via standalone operation. We think that those, again they’re fully funded opportunities, but they’re very high return projects, because they’re all ground field expansions. They are at existing operations.
Coming to Lapa, which again is in Quebec, between LaRonde and Goldex in fact, it is only a few miles from LaRonde, so in fact we didn’t build the mill there. We built an expansion to the milling facility at LaRonde. It is a very high grade deposit, by far, the highest grade in fact at 8.8 grams. This has come along extremely well. In fact, we just poured our first gold there in the last few weeks. So really not much to say about Lapa, except we are very proud of the team that has built this operation and it is already ramping up as expected.
You can see in this picture on slide 21, in fact the golden color at the end of these rows is in fact nugget pure gold. This is a gravity table, so really because there is gold at Lapa is very coarse, you really only need to shake it and it falls off at the end of the table in this stream as you can see here, very interesting.
Again, very proud of our property in Mexico, the Mexican mining team has done extremely well here. This project is opening in the third quarter of this year as well, so that will be the fifth of six mines and sixth of six is opening in the Canadian Arctic, just in January of next year. So last year, at this time, we were just ramping up Goldex. We really only had one true operating gold mine and a year from now we will have six. So again referring to that growth rate in this company, it’s been absolutely incredible.
Mexico specifically, very good deposit. We continue to find more gold down here. We think the exploration potential is quite tremendous in fact. The exploration program continues to focus to the Northwest of the main deposit where we found a series of flat-lying surface deposits. Our plan is to literally drive in, scoop these up and throw them on a heap leach pad to supplement the mill production at the main deposit. It will give us great flexibility and incremental production there as well.
And last, but certainly not least, our most challenging project from at least a logistical point of view is Meadowbank in the Canadian Arctic. Even though our Kittila mine in Finland is further north and in fact inside the Arctic Circle, the gulfstream keeps the climate at Kittila and Finland really quite tolerable where for most of us, I think we would find the climate in the Canadian Arctic even though at the size of the Arctic Circle to be quite severe. Needless to say, the winter is pretty difficult up there.
However, this has been a fantastic deposit. It has continued to grow as we have continued to drill it. And this one is going to open in January of next year. So incredibly almost completed in our pipeline of building five new gold mines all at the same time. And as I mentioned, this one has a great expansion opportunity as well. In fact the study will be out in the third quarter of this year. Again, I expect our Board to approve all of these expansions. We have lots of capital as you have seen. Certainly our cash flows are going to be fantastic. They’re already pretty good and it’s very easy to build ground field projects of course because your infrastructure is already there.
That being said, we will continue to look at mergers and acquisitions. There are opportunities in our gold space. A lot of the junior companies have not had great access to capital through this credit crisis and it continues to allow there to be some opportunity to use our rather fairly priced currency of our stock, again some of the other companies that have not fortunately or unfortunately faired as well. So we do continue to look at a number of M&A opportunities.
Agnico-Eagle owns at any given time probably 15 to 20 investments in junior mining companies, all for strategic purposes. Some of them workout, some of them don’t. But again what we really like to do is to take a toehold in companies of interest and if we can help them along as far as exploration go, maybe sometimes, we take a bigger piece and we like to get our people on the board and eventually take them over. But again, we are very conservative with our shareholders’ money. So frankly, we would like to take our time and de-risk these projects, because as I am sure, many of you know junior mining projects can be fairly risky.
So, slide 24 is really just the news on the internal expansions, when the studies are coming out. And to reiterate the investment highlights here, really, a long operating history. I would say at least half of our executive team has been with the company for more than 20 years. The doubling of gold production this year, the doubling of it again next year I think is rather incredible. Certainly, we continue to drill out these deposits that have tremendous exploration potential and should allow us to continue to drive that reserve per share number that I talked about earlier. We should be able to continue to drive that significantly higher.
Reserves per share leads to production per share which leads to cash flow per share. And I think that we are the company in this business that is most focused on per share metrics, so I think there are some other very good ones. For example, I think Ram Gold is a good example of a company over a very long period of time that has paid a lot of attention to these per share metrics, but we are absolutely focused on it. And again the exploration potential of these deposits is such that we have the potential to have we think three or four of our six projects having greater than 5 million ounces of reserves.
And if we flip quickly down to slide 29, I believe it is, we have put an interesting table here, which details the operating mines globally that have 5 million ounces of reserves or more and/or greater than 2 grams per ton or better which is about the average grade of gold deposits. And in fact, there are only about 40 gold mines operating worldwide that have 5 million ounces of reserves or more. Why this is interesting, that specific number is I think it was Newmont that did a study that said the world’s gold deposit is only 4% of them had ever gotten to be 5 million ounces of reserves or more. So we founded that in fact it’s 40, 41 operating mines right now that have that criteria and you see here 22 of them are of the higher grade nature better than 2 grams per ton.
Our LaRonde mine is already one of these mines. We expect that our Kittila, Meadowbank and Pinos Altos mines have the potential to join this elite group, this top tier of world class operating mines. So credit to our geologists because they are many and to point us in the right direction for a midsized company like Agnico, we are a $9 billion, $10 billion market cap company, maybe four of our six deposits being in this world class category, I think is really quite incredible.
And again, if you looked down the total cash cost column, lot of these mines are fairly mature and as a result has some fairly high cost, $400 or $500, $600 per ounce of cash cost. And I will remind you that we expect our operations on average to come in at $300 to $350 per ounce. So again very low cost, but again look at where these properties are located. There are only three that are not in Russia, Africa or perhaps in New Guinea.
So again, back to this political risk aspect, I really like Agnico-Eagle’s political risk profile as well. I don’t think we get enough credit for that. And I think if sell side analysts used different discount rates in their models, you would probably find that Agnico is not quite as expensive as some of them say.
Certainly, when we travel, the investors like to say, well Agnico has a lot of execution risk because they’re building five gold mines at one. Well, certainly I would agree with that. There was a lot of execution risk, but we are in already less than a year away from completing the fifth of those five. So the execution risk is naturally falling away. The other thing that people tell us is that Agnico’s stock is expensive. Frankly, we think that’s a great complement. We must be doing something right if our stock is truly expensive.
But again, we have got a (inaudible) this political risk aspect. If you are going to value all of your gold stocks at 5% discount rate and one is – I am picking on the Congo today. So one is a company operating in the Congo and then we have at least half of our assets in Quebec and it doesn’t get much better than Quebec. Again, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison.
But nonetheless, Agnico on a cash flow per share basis, I think is the number one company in the gold business in 2010 and hopefully onward. So again if our stock is expensive, I think it’s for a reason, I think it’s because of that growth and because of the quality underlying that growth as well.
So really, that’s the end of the presentation and thank you for your attention. And hopefully we have a minute or so for questions if you have any. Thank you.
Certainly. The question is where would we go as far as political jurisdictions. We would conceivably go into South America. There are certainly some countries in South America that have great mining histories. Chile is obviously one. I think Brazil is probably a pretty good place as well. Some of the others we are not so sure about. We still have a question mark besides countries like Argentina. Lot of talk has been in the industry about Columbia being an investment grade country now. Again, we certainly have question marks besides countries like Columbia at this point.
I think we would be prepared to continue in Northern Europe. We are only in Finland, but I think Sweden is certainly a great mining country as well. We do have an advanced stage exploration property in Nevada. Nevada is obviously a great place for gold mining. We would be happy to mine in the US as well, some states, some states are not so friendly to mining. But certainly Nevada is one. And so that’s probably about it.
We don’t literally have a giant map of the world on the head office while with big red Xs through countries, but we may as well. For example, we don’t know anybody in Africa, we don’t know anybody in China, we don’t know anybody in Russia, so we don’t know how to do business there. Certainly there are probably some gold mining companies that are capable of mining in those regions, Kinross for example has a great mine in Russia. They have been there for a long time. We haven’t, so we will – I guess we will leave it Kinross.
But again, we are really proud of our political risk profile and we don’t want to do to anything screw up a good story. I think Agnico shareholders would be absolutely shocked if we did a 90 degree turn and I’m picking on the Congo again today, I apologize to the Congo and the companies operating there, but we don’t know how to do business over there.
It looks like that’s it for questions. Thank you very much again for your attendance. And if you do have any more questions, I guess we have a breakout room next door and I would be happy to help you out then or after, you can contact me at anytime at Agnico-Eagle. Thank you.
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