Barry Fitzgerald: Here’s how Lucapa’s diamonds outshine gold
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Lucapa Diamond Company (ASX:LOM) boss Stephen Wetherall knew he was in the den of gold investors when he took to the stage at last week’s Resources Rising Stars conference on the Gold Coast.
So to give the punters a feel of how the high quality diamonds produced by Lucapa from its two African mines out shine gold on a value-for-weight basis, Wetherall did some conversion work for them.
He noted that the 12,500 carats of diamonds in the last two sales from Lucapa’s mines fetched $20m.
By weight, it was the equivalent of selling 88 oz of gold, worth a comparatively miserable $160,000.
Now it has to be said that Wetherall was not out to simply brag about diamond prices for his African sparklers relative to gold prices.
His bigger point was that while Lucapa was now an established diamond producer from two mines, its cash flow generating capacity was not being recognised by the market as if that cashflow came from gold production.
“I don’t believe that as I stand here today that the market is giving us credit for our current cashflow capability and our future cashflow generation,” Wetherall said.
Some of the gold bugs in the packed room at the RACV Royal Pines Resort must have agreed as Lucapa shares moved from 15.5c on Wednesday afternoon when Wetherall spoke, to 17c by the close of trade on Friday.
The most recent analyst notes on the stock were in February, with Panmure Gordon setting a price target of 45c, and Euroz a 61c target.
The trigger for the February notes was the commissioning of Lucapa’s second African mine – the Mothae kimberlite (a host rock for diamonds) mine in the diamond-rich kingdom of Lesotho.
It joins the Lulo alluvial diamond operation in Angola, which has been a commercial producer for five years, with its production including a 404 carat “trophy” rough diamond which sold for $US16m.
Ownership of two diamond mines is unusual in the small world of diamond producers. And given their African addresses, owning two producing operations in different countries was in itself a major derisking event for Lucapa.
But as the recent near 52-week low in Lucapa’s share price reflects, investors have been hanging back waiting for more evidence that the new $US38m Mothae operation (70 per cent owned by Lucapa) has hit its straps.
At Lulo (40 per cent owned), the joint venture’s treatment capacity is being increased through a $US12m expansion, self-funded by the joint venture.
But the real excitement at Lulo is the hunt for the kimberlites that have shed the diamonds now being mined by the alluvial operation.
Lucapa is aware that some shareholders would rather it focus on its existing mines without looking for the source of Lulo’s alluvial diamonds.
“We hear that, loud and clear,’’ chairman Miles Kennedy told shareholders at Lucapa’s May annual meeting.
“To me, the main game in Angola for many years has been to find the kimberlite diamond pipe or pipes which, about 100 million years ago, erupted within our Lulo concession, and in doing so shed the world’s most valuable alluvial diamonds down into the terraces we mine today.’’
“And while kimberlite exploration can by nature be painstakingly slow, I am equally of the view that we are closer than ever to finding the mother lode at Lulo,’’ Kennedy said.
Now, that would cause some excitement.