Western Golfields WGW
December 22, 2008 - 1:13pm EST by
2008 2009
Price: 1.49 EPS
Shares Out. (in M): 0 P/E
Market Cap (in $M): 213 P/FCF
Net Debt (in $M): 0 EBIT 0 0

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Western Goldfields is a Toronto-based junior gold miner that has recently restarted production of an existing mine located in California. The company is fully-financed, has been ramping production throughout 2008, is generating cash as it exits 2008, and is undervalued by up to 50% based on spot gold at $850/oz and 7x 2010 free cash flow per share (before debt principal repayments) and my life of mine NAV-7.5% of $2.27.

The stock trades on the Amex under the symbol WGW at a recent price of $1.45 (TSX symbol WGI), has 153M diluted shares, and a market cap of $213M.

The fact that the mine asset is located in North America (California’s anti-mining stance is not a problem as the mine if fully permitted and grandfathered in ahead of tougher current laws), is a past producing mine, is a strip mine (not underground), is fully financed and should be cash flowing this quarter makes WGW an attractive micro-cap junior miner with less risk than many of its peers, especially those in need of financing.
Western’s sole property, the Mesquite Mine, is located in Imperial County, California. It was operated between 1985 and 2001 by Goldfields Mining Corporation, Sante Fe Minerals Corporation, and finally Newmont Mining Corporation, who suspended the mining operations in 2001 due to low gold prices and unfavorable economics to continue a mine expansion. At the time of closure, Newmont continued the permitting process for a mine expansion. The expansion permit was approved on July 16, 2002, but due to low gold prices Newmont elected not to reactivate mining at Mesquite.
Western Goldfields, Inc. acquired the mine in 2003. Production at Mesquite re-started in January 2008. The asset has limited opportunities to expand resources and I am not adding anything to valuation for exploration upside. (There may be some.)
Proved and probable reserves amount to 2.75M ozs of gold and will be extracted over approximately twelve years at a rate of roughly 150,000 ozs in 2009, 175,000 ozs in 2010, 200,000 in 2011, before dropping back to around 160,000 oz per annum for most of the out years. Cash costs in 2009 should dip from ~$491/oz in 2008 to ~420/oz in '09 and '10. Lower diesel is one driver of lower costs (some of which was recently hedged) as is a streamlined mine plan.
Western has $86M in debt and $45M in cash on its balance sheet as of Q3 with $18.7M available under its credit facility. The mine redevelopment was financed as follows:

Sold 33.3M shares at C$2.25 in Jan07 to raise $59.2M


Sold 11.3M shares at C$3.05 in Oct07 to raise $33.4M.


In Mar07, established a $105M credit facility with Investec Bank.

To secure the credit facility the company was required to forward hedge 429,000 ozs of gold at $801 per ounce. The hedge represents a commitment to sell 5500 ounces per month for 78 months (66,000 ounces per year) commencing July 2008 with the last deliverable in December 2014. Each quarter the remaining hedge is marked to market and the resulting gain or loss runs through the income statement, but is non cash. Based on production guidance, approximately 80,000 to 125,000 ounces per year remained leveraged to the gold price until the hedge runs off.
The company has $47.5M of NOLs which should be recovered beginning in 2009.
Western initiated production of the Mesquite mine in Q1’08. In Q2 production was below plan as is overall 2008 production (117,000 ozs). A revised mining plan in which the mining process will be shifted from a concurrent to a sequential open pit mining plan should reduce costs, improve equipment availability and lower fuel needs. I am not a mining expert (please keep that in mind; conduct your own research), but it appears that a rush to start production and in the process an attempt to use an old leach pad may have contributed to some early problems.
The CEO is Raymond Threlkeld, a former senior manager with Barrick, Coeur d’Alene, with over 30 years industry experience.
                          2008              2009              2010 
2008 blended rev/oz
including hedged ozs     $858

Hedged Oz @$801                           66,000           66,000

Unhedged Oz @850                          84,000           109,000

Total Ounces            117,255          150,000           175,000


Cash cost per oz         $491              $419             $421    


Revenue ($M)           100.6            124.3            154.5            

Cash costs              55.5             62.9             73.6

Royalties                2.1              2.5              2.9

G&A                      4.6              5.2              6.0

Exploration              1.2              1.6              1.6      

Interest exp             3.7              1.6              0.4

Interest inc             1.1              0.5              0.6

Taxes                     -                 -                -

Maint capex                -              2.0              2.0

Free cash flow          34.5             53.0             63.6             

FCF/share               $0.22            $0.35            $0.41


Shares basic            134.5M

Options/warrants        18.9

Shares diluted          153.4



Debt                    63.2             25.6          Zero at yr-end

Cash                    45.8             56.8              90.4


Interest rate: LIBOR + 2.2% dropping to +1.75% in 2H’08, per loan agreement.

Interest on cash balance at 1%.

Royalty of ~2.0% assumed

Options and warrant cash added to cash balance, $15.5M.

NOL of $47.5M.

2008 capex considered project related, thus no maintenance

Mandatory debt repayments of $17.7M in Q4’08, $4.7M in Jun’09, $6.9M in Dec’09 plus 50% of cash flow. (I am a little higher on my percent of cash flow repayments than called for. However, I would not be surprised to see the company further accelerate debt payments beyond the current updated agreements. In any case, the difference has little bearing on valuation.)



I am valuing WGW at 7x 2009 FCF of $0.35, or $2.42 per share and my life of mine NAV-7.5% of $2.27 with spot gold at $850/oz. Fair value rises quickly with the gold price (though limited somewhat by the hedge). I am not counting balance sheet cash in my P/FCF, arguably this should add to valuation as cash builds in excess of debt (and full debt repayment which should occur by end of 2010). If the company meets its targets and gold remains steady or breaks out then valuation multiples afforded by the market typically rise, too. A 10x multiple would be likely under those circumstances. I'm using a 7.5% NAV as the project is financed and as production ramps becoming further derisked.


Valuation Matrix:


5x FCF                  $1.12             $1.73             $2.07

7x FCF                  $1.57             $2.42             $2.90            

10X FCF                 $2.25             $3.46             $4.15


NAV 10.0%               $2.03

NAV 7.5%                $2.27

NAV 5.0%                $2.58

NAV 0.0%                $3.45



On the price of gold: I am not a gold bug. The price seems to be stable and I am willing to work with that. You need to come to your own position on gold. I am taking the approach that deflationary forces are offsetting the eventual impact of inflationary forces set off by monetary insanity and eventual economic recovery. These offsetting forces are holding gold steady in its current channel. If the gold price drops too much I have no intention of arguing with it and I am likely to sell w/o notice. If gold spikes and the metal and the stocks go parabolic I will also sell.





The company misses production estimates or the gold price drops, hardly a rare event for mining and oil/gas explorers. As a non-geologist I am unable to understand some flaw in their mine plan (though I have talked to a geologist/analyst who understands the project to get his views on the risks).



Production estimates are met and gold remains roughly were it is or goes higher.
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