Niko Resources: Opportunity Beckons

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Includes: NKRSF, OIL
by: Harmit Kamboe

The Company:

Niko Resources (OTCPK:NKRSF), based in Canada is an independent and frontier exploration company. Like Cairn Energy (OTCPK:CRNCY), my other pick, they typically go into countries and regions that regions that Big Oil has overlooked. They are a pure play in terms of oil and gas exploration as they are not into owning or running gas stations or refineries.

The Assets:

  1. Near Term Trigger

The most significant asset that Niko has is its 10% stake in the gas field of D6, in the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin off the east cost of India.

D6 is a global phenomenal gas field by any standards. At its peak production, the D6 KG filed will produce the equivalent of 550,000 barrels of oil a day (that's more than half a million barrels a day!!).

With most of the base infrastructure in place and initial gas already being captured, this is a major impetus, both to the country and the company (Reliance Industries & Niko, the 10% partner).

D6 will have knock on downstream benefits for the Indian economy as reported by Goldman Sachs.

  1. Exploring outside of D6

Niko is also exploring other blocks in D6 and elsewhere in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kurdistan, Pakistan, Trinidad and Madagascar.

With cash flows that will be flowing from the D6 field soon, Niko will be in a great position to bid for better blocks and undertake better exploration in the acreage that it already has access to.

Risks:

  1. The brother on brother dispute in the Reliance Family (owners of the 90% stake of D6).

Apart from the usual risks of delayed production and other technical risks associated with deepwater exploration, there hangs a more serious cloud over the revenues that could accrue courtesy of D6.

90% of D6 is held by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) controlled by Mukesh Ambani, the elder of the two Ambani brothers. When the two brothers split from each other in 2005, they signed an agreement on how to divvy up the empire that their father legendary Dhirubhai Ambani had created (and the boys had helped grow). Anil Ambani, the younger brother has contended in court that as per a settlement agreement, he has rights to buy a certain amount of gas (28 million cubic metres of gas per day) from the D6 fields at a “friendly” price (50% of the price set by the government).

With Anil’s part of Reliance making investment in generating electricity for a country that desperately needs energy, access to low priced gas is a key competitive advantage.

Current Status of the dispute:

A. The dispute now lies before the Supreme Court of India.

B. The government of India has stepped in and wants the gas sold at full price so that its own revenues do not get hit. The governments’ contention is that the natural resources are a national asset and that the folks that discover and sell the resource are just companies that are leasing the land/asset.

  1. The low price of the gas versus international price

The gas from D6 is not sold as per free market prices but at prices set by the state. At a set price of USD 4.2 mm/BTU, the will of the state may be tested if natural gas prices move up globally.

What happens if and when the global prices of natural gas shoots up? I don't know.

Keeping in mind that India has yet to attract “Big Oil” to explore, it is hard to imagine that the state will be able play the role of a paternalistic parent in perpetuity. India’s energy needs require a few more D6 kind of discoveries and global players are required to generate competition and accelerate the pace of exploration. An awakened India cannot allow the discovery of additional deposits to be put off.

There have been other less significant discoveries adjacent to the D6 already.

Valuation:

Niko states that once D6 hits the targeted 2800 MMcf/day target which is expected before calendar year end 2009, shareholders can look forward to $ 10 as cash flow from operations.

I am making an assumption or a leap of faith, that much of $10 will flow directly to the bottom line in the hope that interest and taxes will be met by some income from the non D6 fields. If some one has additional information on this, please share it with the readers using the comment form at the end of the article.

In the worst case scenario of a quarter of the production of the natural gas from D6 has to go to Anil Ambani’s group, it will be interesting to see if it is taken out solely from the 90% that Reliance Industries owns (as should be the case and Niko’s stake should not be impacted). Niko after all was not party to the family agreement between the Ambani brothers.

With an expected field life of 11 years, an investor may pay up to 5 times these earnings on a conservative basis for an independent oil exploration company (9.1 PE for Independent Oil & Gas producers).

That establishes a base of $ 50 for the Niko stock and throws in all the other exploration assets and potential at zero cost.

How to best play Niko India?

Niko Resources trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange. At $ 80 the stock may feel expensive given $50 as a base price, but please note that the independent oil and gas companies trade at 9 times earnings. I have chosen to go with 5 as an extreme caution.

Long investors are expecting the cash register to ring soon as we are not far from the moment when Niko will begin to lock half a billion dollars in sale every quarter.

Recommendation:

You may choose to wait before buying Niko at your own risk. If there is a weakness between now and end 2009, definitely load up on this stock and wait till the cash flows start rolling in. I don’t think a long term investor will be disappointed.

You will also find that Joseph Schacter on April 6, appearing on BNN (Business News Network in Canada) has Niko as a top pick (he has had this on his radar for a long time).