Barry FitzGerald: No need to take these 3 SOP stocks with a grain of salt – they’re all about growth
Link copied to
Australia’s nascent sulphate of potash (SOP) industry, based on the salt lakes of outback Western Australia, should be enjoying the best of times.
A premium product in the fertiliser space, SOP prices have rocketed in the last six months, making it the fourth best performed of all commodities behind muriate of potash (MOP), lithium, and coffee. (Someone who knows tell me it has “pretty much” doubled this calendar to more than $US1,000 a tonne.)
From that it can be taken that fertilisers are hot, so much so that a leading index that tracks the performance of a basket of different fertilisers is now at an all-time record.
There is a whole bunch of reasons for fertiliser prices taking off, the most lasting of which is the need-to-feed the world thematic.
So the ASX companies behind the rise of a SOP industry in Australia should rightly be enjoying the best of times.
But last month’s collapse of Salt Lake Potash (ASX:SO4) after hitting problems (like where is the potassium salt?) at its much vaunted Lake Way project has soured investor sentiment towards the rest of the SOP pack.
A wipe-out for shareholders, Salt Lake also went under owing secured creditors $170 million, including all of us as taxpayers because the Federal government’s Clean Energy Finance Corp was involved in the Lake Way development.
As is Garimpeiro’s want, there is good news in Salt Lake’s demise. The souring of investor sentiment towards the sector means the other SOP players are trading at much lower levels than would have been the case had Salt Lake not fallen over.
There is an underlying assumption to that. And that is that the other SOP stocks don’t make the same mistakes Salt Lake did around its understanding of the resource, and the engineering and management involved in the extraction and processing of the potassium carry brines.
Remembering the SOP stocks have been beaten up for no other reason than Salt Lake’s stuff-up when SOP’s price rise should them dancing, Garimpeiro has gone looking for where there could be some value.
Trigg Mining (ASX:TMG): One of the smaller SOP players with a market cap of $9.8 million. It traded on Friday at 8.4c which compares with its 52-week high of 18.5c. Thanks Salt Lake.
Despite its modest market cap the company’s Lake Throssell project near Laverton has potential Top 10 producer credentials. A recent scoping study using a long-term SOP price of $US550/t pointed to a $378 million capex project earning $97 million annually.
So it is leveraged to the upside in the SOP story. It is earning kudos for the methodical way it is going about advancing Lake Throssell to production.
Australian Potash (ASX:APC): Another SOP to suffer from Salt Lake backwash for no good reason.
It traded on Friday at 8.8c which compares with its 25c 52-week high. The market likes the way it is going about its Lake Wells project which is the only one of the WA projects based solely on brine extraction from well bores rather than from trenches, or a combination of the two.
And in a sure sign that investors interested in the sector are putting Salt Lake’s stuff-up to the side, APC is currently pulling in $12 million from a share placement at 8c each, with a $2 million share purchase plan to follow.
The funds will be used to continue to de-risk the project by develop well bores, pump testing the bores, and then reconciling recorded flow rates with the project’s development plan modelling. It is just what the market wants to hear.
Kalium Lakes (ASX:KLL): Gets the title as Australia’s first SOP producer thanks to commissioning tests at its Beyondie SOP project on a 24/7 basis, and Salt Lake’s collapse.
It shares traded on Friday at 18c which compares with the 52 week high of 29c. There has been some issues with the supply of brine from the trenches and bore fields but they look like niggles.
The company raised $50 million from a placement last month at 18c a share. It was a condition of a debt restructuring that provided working capital and debt cover during the ramp-up phase.