McEwen Mining (NYSE: MUX) president and CEO Rob McEwen addressed a range of issues in a quarterly conference call with shareholders and analysts from the state of gold stocks (not so bad since 1999, he said) to what he thought its Los Azules copper-gold project might fetch if it sells ($200 million).
Indeed, in a sector where majors are pulling back on mega-projects, McEwen figured that was the most McEwen Mining might get for Los Azules.
“I don’t even know if $200 million is a number that can be achieved,” McEwen said.
McEwen drew his figure from a comparison of Los Azules to Lumina Copper‘s Taca Taca project. Los Azules is, roughly speaking, about two thirds the size of Taca Taca, which is also a large copper-gold porphyry project located in Argentina. So McEwen figured Los Azules could be worth about two thirds Lumina Copper’s marketcap – the aforementioned $200 million mark.
Though forthcoming on price, McEwen was not willing to disclose how many confidentiality agreements had been signed since BMO started looking around for buyers for McEwen Mining. But he did say there were site visits and that he expected formal bids to come in June.
Still, he wasn’t sowing high expectations for a sale in part given Los Azules’ location. In recent years Argentina has, among other things, made it harder for foreign companies to bring in profits.
“Certainly the uncertainty around Argentina is a negative,” McEwen. “So you don’t have a stampede running to your door saying they want to buy it now.”
The conference call was dominated by a question and answer period filled with inquiries and some long-winded statements from both private investors and analysts. There was a fair bit of conversation about gold stocks, and some wanted to know McEwen’s take on the current state of the market.
McEwen described the current landscape for gold stocks as being the worst since 1999 – a real nadir – but sounded hopeful for a resurgent market by year’s end. “I do think we’re close to the bottom for gold and gold shares,” he said.
He trotted out an interesting statistic: a gold price phenomena he called the White House effect, which has been noted by some analysts in the past. With one exception, since 1984 gold shares have fallen in every US election year, McEwen said, as they did last year. The year that follows, however, gold shares have risen.
That would be this year, of course.
“If you use the AUX index they have risen between 10 and 80 percent in the years that have followed a presidential election in seven of eight periods,” McEwen said. “The one year they went down was during Bre-X and it pulled the whole sector down.”
In McEwen’s estimation this year will not be the second exception since 1984.
“There’s a high probability gold shares are going to be higher at the end of the year than the beginning of the year,” he said.