A natural-resource insider asking who Lukas Lundin is would be like a Brit asking who the current queen of England is. You just know.
Fact is, there is no stronger figure in the resource sector than Lukas, who heads the Lundin Group of Companies founded in 1971 by the late Adolf Lundin, Lukas's father and a veritable legend in the sector.
Their website states, "With a mandate to maximize shareholder value, the Lundins have produced consistent, long-term results and have earned unprecedented loyalty among their shareholders." This is no exaggeration-and I believe it's one of the reasons why for three decades the Lundins have reigned supreme in the resource market.
In 2011, for example, they sold Red Back Mining for C$7.1 billion to Kinross Gold (NYSE:KGC), and in 2012, Lundin company Africa Oil (OTCPK:AOIFF) made a world-class oil discovery in Kenya, handing shareholders a ten-bagger (meaning a profit of 1,000% or more).
All in all, the Lundin Group, consisting of 15 companies, has raised over $3 billion in financing to advance its projects. Lundin companies operate in more than 30 different countries, and joint venture partners have included some of the largest companies in the world, such as Gulf Oil, Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX), BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), and Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX).
I feel privileged to have been able to spend a lot of time with Lukas Lundin over the years, not just in my role as Casey's chief energy investment strategist and as a full-time investor, but also because I happen to live next door to him.
Being a great admirer of successful entrepreneurs, I've recently pondered what it is that separates Lukas from the thousands of wannabe resource titans. Here are the five valuable lessons I learned, lessons that I think any businessman should take to heart.
Lesson #1: Walk the walk.
Lukas's attitude toward investments is the first major difference between him and many others in the resource community. He thinks and acts like a winner. He's the first person to write a large check to go into his own deals, and that, in my mind, is the greatest sign of leadership and confidence you can expect from a company's management.
In all of the Lundin companies, the Lundin family has the most money invested and the most money at risk-their interests are perfectly aligned with the shareholders'. Unlike most of the resource explorers on the TSX-V exchange, the Lundins don't make money unless their shareholders make money.
This was highlighted again last Saturday, when Lukas invited me over for breakfast. Naturally, our conversation tends to drift to the natural resource sector, and before I knew it, we'd spent over three hours talking about the business. But one line that really stood out for me was when he said, "How can I ask investors to invest and buy Lundin stocks unless I am willing to invest the most?" I can tell you from personal experience that not too many people in the resource sector think like that.
Lesson #2: Find the best people and keep them.
Lukas also has an uncanny ability to attract the best in the business to work in his companies. A great example is Keith Hill, Lukas's right-hand man in the oil sector. Under Lukas's guidance, Keith put together what is today Africa Oil (the company whose shareholders saw over 1,000% gains in the last 18 months).
Thanks in part to Africa's partner Tullow Oil (OTCPK:TUWLF), the company's assets continue to get bigger and better. Lukas is smart enough to understand that he can't do it all alone; at the core of every great company are the people who make things happen. At the Lundin office, if you don't make things happen, you won't be around for long-and that's a good thing for investors.
Lesson #3: Think big.
One of Lukas's core beliefs is that life is short, so you might as well focus on the most economic world-class projects. If it doesn't have world-class potential, Lukas isn't interested, which is a fundamental difference between him and 99.9% of the resource sector.
Lukas is able to differentiate what has world-class potential and what doesn't, without spending years and millions of the shareholders' money. I believe this comes down to the fact that Lukas is the largest shareholder in his companies; because his own wealth is at risk, he treats the treasury with the utmost respect and doesn't waste money on mediocre projects. Of course, not every single project pans out, but unless it has world-class potential, the Lundin fingerprint won't be on it.
Lesson #4: Don't be afraid; be a contrarian.
You cannot succeed without being a contrarian in the resource sector. This is what I like most about Lukas: he isn't scared to tell his friends that they're wrong.
Lukas and one of his close friends-another resource titan-have had some heated debates of late. His friend thinks the metals market is at risk due to a global economic slowdown, a result of the end of global growth. Lukas, on the other hand, is bullish and thinks this is exactly the market to be aggressive when everyone is weak, to go after the best projects in the world. Both are highly respected within the industry, yet they have polar opposite views. Why so different? Well, one of them has recently had major successes, while the other was close but didn't monetize the opportunities, and his shares have suffered as a result.
Lukas has a strong balance sheet across the board and is able to act on these opportunities because of his past successes and monetization of large assets. Luck? As they say, you have to be good to be lucky, and Lukas is good. In the 2008 resource meltdown, he suffered like most; however, he positioned his companies to not just benefit from the rebound, he monetized opportunities.
Lukas learned early on about the benefits of being a contrarian from his legendary father, Adolf. The Lundins would go after top-quality deposits in areas most others didn't dare to tread or didn't have the know-how to operate in. By moving decisively, the Lundins were able to get in early and cheaply. You will never see a Lundin chase an area play-in fact, it's quite the opposite. They cause area plays, such as they did in the East African Rift in Kenya in the past couple of years.
I was involved in the early stages of Africa Oil and was a large investor alongside the Casey Energy subscribers in what at the time was a relatively unknown oil district. There were no majors, no wells being drilled, and the Lundins were able to buy the 10BB block for $10 million, which today is worth billions of dollars. (To give you an idea what I mean by "world-class deposit," the 10BB block alone is now being compared to the potential of the entire North Sea.) The Lundins were right again.
Lesson #5: Push through obstacles.
As riveting as the Africa Oil story is, it wasn't easy getting there. In late 2008, the financial crisis was in full swing, and most resource investors fell victim to the collapse. Lundin asset Africa Oil was in the midst of restructuring itself when the crisis hit. It had been looking to acquire a company called Turkana, which owned the now-famed 10BB block in Kenya.
Doug Casey, myself, and Casey Research subscribers were heavily invested in Turkana because we believed in 10BB's potential. The discussions for Africa Oil buying out Turkana had started just before the 2008 collapse, and as the due diligence progressed, so did the crisis.
By early 2009, most resource investors were very discouraged by the significant losses they'd taken. It was the worst time possible for Africa Oil to raise the C$30 million it needed to advance its assets, including taking over Turkana's properties.
As a large shareholder of Turkana, I attended the meetings with Lukas and Keith during this period and wondered how in the world they would pull this off.
At some point in the meeting, Lukas cleared his throat, stood up, and declared in a firm voice, "I'll take ten million dollars as the lead order." He knew these projects had incredible potential, and he simply refused to let the current market conditions distract him from the big picture.
At that point, Rick Rule, a longtime friend of Lukas's and a famous resource investor in his own right, stated he would take C$10 million, and the rest of the people in the room took the rest. But it was only because of Lukas's leadership that that specific financing was completed. Africa Oil's market capitalization at that time was around C$100 million-today it's roughly C$2 billion, a 2,000% increase in less than five years. That's why Lukas is a billionaire.
I think these five lessons are perfect for understanding the elements required to get a "Big Score" in the resource sector. It all starts with a founder who is financially committed to the long-term success of the company and who is its largest investor. He attracts brilliant people who will commit not just their services but also their own money to the long-term success of the company. They focus on world-class deposits, while being the first in gives them a low entry price, and they push through obstacles with determination. It may sound simple, but it's incredibly difficult to execute and find in the real world.
So when one does come across a company that is replicating the "Lundin formula," one must pay attention. It's taken me four years to find a company with the ten-bagger potential that Africa Oil had in its early days.
- The president of this company, like Lukas Lundin in the early days of Africa Oil, has also invested C$10 million of his own money in the company's first private placement.
- He's a very successful individual who turned his prior company into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
- He's been able to attract key people who were responsible for the early success of the legendary Bakken formation; and as with Lukas's teams, they have invested their own money in the company.
- The company has spent the last five years looking for the next Bakken, and management believe they are sitting on a world-class deposit. They were able to get over 2 million acres of land, which has known pools of oil, in an area where nobody was looking for it.
The company has the right formula-now the drilling will determine if it is the next Big Score, that one huge discovery that can make a fortune for management and shareholders alike.
There are risks to investing in any resource company, but mitigating risk is a key factor for success in the resource sector. This company has done that, and the Casey Energy team is convinced that it is sitting on the "next Bakken." Just like Africa Oil, it will take time for the company to develop the asset and attract the supermajors, but we think this will happen sooner than later … simply put, oil exploration doesn't get any better than this.
We expect the definitive drill results from the first well on or around September 16, less than a week from now. Once the drill results get released, we'll immediately alert our Casey Energy Report subscribers, plus send them a detailed research report on the "next Bakken" and the company I've been talking about.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.