Lessons from the Masters: Where is small cap whisperer Tolga Kumova invested on the ASX?
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Tolga Kumova burst to prominence as a mining investor shortly after his departure from graphite miner Syrah Resources (ASX:SYR) in 2016.
The charismatic Victorian mining executive was at the helm of the ASX-listed company for a little over two years as the small cap’s value ran to $1.5 billion, notably being at the wheel when it raised $194 million from investors to support the development of is Balama mine, which eventually entered production in late 2017.
What followed was a sort of Annus Mirabilis for Tolga, whose positions in Syrah, New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ), European Cobalt and Bellevue Gold (ASX:BGL) propelled him into the consciousness of investment circles as a name to look out for.
He became a young rich lister, reported at the time to have a net worth of around $95 million.
That put him on the radar, with the stories around some of the investments capturing the attention of both small cap investors and the mining media.
The most notable was perhaps Bellevue Gold, at the time a reformed coal explorer called Draig Resources which had been reborn through the bargain basement purchase of the old Bellevue gold mine.
It later hit pay dirt with the major discovery of high grade gold at the Tribune and Viago Lodes beyond a fault old timers thought had displaced the rich narrow gold veins that once made it one of Australia’s highest grade gold mines.
The story, as told by Kumova at the time, was he thought he could play a bit of havoc with nickel miner Western Areas over miscellaneous licences for its nearby Cosmos nickel complex after it allegedly reneged on a deal over lithium rights near its Forrestania nickel mines.
He later told Stockhead’s Barry Fitzgerald it was all water under the bridge.
The bet worked, Bellevue found over 3Moz of high grade gold and is on track to become a 200,000ozpa WA gold miner.
Tolga no longer appears on the Top 20 lists of many of those early winners, such as New Century and Syrah who are trading well off their peaks.
Rather public filings show he has moved further down the market, diving deeper into the small cap space over time.
While long odds bets don’t always pay off – in fact, they often don’t – Tolga told Stockhead’s Jack McGinn back in early 2021 he looks to get in early on stocks that have room to move.
“If someone’s putting $20,000 or $30,000 into something and the share price doubles, is that going to make much of a difference to their life? Probably not,” he said at the time.
“But if you put $30,000 into something that goes up 50 times, and you have the courage to hold it, then it will change your life.”
The one prominent name that remains in the stocks attributed to Tolga’s name according to investment research software IRESS is Bellevue.
Kumova still boasts ~1.2% of the emerging gold miner, a stake worth in excess of $10 million at current prices. That’s been whittled down over the past couple years by sales and dilution as major investment houses have piled into the ASX 300 index stock.
Source: IRESS/ASX company announcements
IRESS has a list of 28 stocks with holdings attributed to Tolga, a number of which he has long-term positions in.
Across them are a diverse set of companies ranging from gold to nickel to silica sands, to uranium, green hydrogen and hydration supplements.
None have yet climbed the heights of Bellevue or Syrah, but a substantial shareholder notice bearing Tolga’s name is always an event when it happens and has the potential to move the stock on the day it arrives.
Some of the most prominent are companies in which Tolga himself has a role.
Most notable among those is Aston Minerals (ASX:ASO), formerly known as European Cobalt.
Tolga transitioned to a role as an executive chair at Aston in March 2021.
The stock briefly spiked amid a rising cobalt market in 2017 before returning to the doldrums before a rerate from 3c in early 2021 to 12c today on gold and nickel discoveries at its Edleston project in Ontario, Canada.
Aston recently managed to raise $29.25 million to bankroll exploration at Edleston, where it is chasing up the Bardwell nickel-cobalt discovery, a find that has returned hits including 0.52% Ni over 163.5m.
Tolga holding: 8.65%
Market Cap: $15.75m
Spun out of Firefly Resources, the gold explorer that secured a memorable and strange merger with Gascoyne Resources (ASX:GCY) last year, Firebird Metals recently announced a “game changing” resource upgrade at its Oakover manganese project in the Pilbara.
The company plans to start scoping studies shortly with a manganese ore study due this quarter and a sulphate study in the September quarter after posting a 170% increase from the project’s historical resource to 172Mt at 9.9% manganese.
Manganese is a key ingredient used to strengthen steel but is also finding favour as a component in lithium ion batteries.
Firebird’s aim is to develop a “significant manganese production hub” with an operating life of over 20 years.
Tolga holding: 4.2%
Market cap: $20.5m
Tolga has investments in a couple of uranium stocks, one of the closest watched small cap sectors on the ASX.
The nuclear fuel is expected to play a role in the energy transition away from conventional fossil fuels, with a looming supply shortage looked at by industry players as an inflection point for long depressed commodity prices.
$20.5 million capped Valor recently started an airborne gravity survey at the Hook Lake and Hidden Bay project in Canada’s eastern Athabasca basin, with assays from its maiden uranium drilling campaign expected in June.
Valor is also exploring for copper and silver at its Picha project in Peru, a 3000ha concession 17km south of Buenaventura’s multi-million ounce San Gabriel gold porphyry project.
Tolga has also held positions in other uranium stocks on the bourse including GTI Resources (ASX:GTR), which is working to develop in-situ recovery uranium resources in the United States, and Alligator Energy (ASX:AGE), owner of the 47Mlb Samphire uranium project in South Australia.
Tolga holding: 7.5%
Market cap: $22.8m
Kumova became a substantial holder at Riversgold back in May 2020 when the former gold explorer went to the market for new capital.
It meandered over the 18 months that followed, but briefly caught the eye of the market earlier this year with a move into 2022’s hottest commodity, lithium.
The company, which has appointed well known mining identity David Lenigas as executive chairman, briefly rerated to 10c in April after the confirmation of lithium mineralisation at its Tambourah tenement in the Pilbara, but has since pulled back to 3.8c.
A maiden drilling program is expected to begin at Tambourah in the coming months.