Hardest Hit Gold Stocks, Searching For Value (GLD, GDX, GDXJ, BVN, GSS, NAK, NG, RBY, UXG)

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Gold has held up rather well compared to many metals, yet the mining stocks and the underlying gold stocks are in many cases performing as though they will not benefit from high gold prices. We have reviewed many of the gold companies to search for value and a our go-to list of gold mining stocks doesn’t reveal any company that is close to threatening near-term highs. The SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD) tracks gold almost tick-for-tick and is only off its 52-week high by 3%, and Royal Gold, Inc. (NASDAQ: RGLD), which is not a miner at all but an investor in royalties, is next best — off -3.61%. Even the mining ETFs are hurting. The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: GDX) is off more than -13%, and the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: GDXJ) is off almost -20%.

The individual mining stocks are even worse, which may be an opportunity. Can these guys come back?  The worst performers among miners with market caps greater than $500 million are Peru’s Compania de Minas Buenaventura SA (NYSE: BVN), Golden Star Resources, Ltd. (AMEX: GSS), Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (AMEX: NAK), NovaGold Resources Inc. (AMEX: NG), Rubicon Minerals Corp. (AMEX: RBY), and US Gold Corp. (NYSE: UXG). Here’s a chart compiled from data at Yahoo! Finance and Morningstar:

 

Ticker % Below 52-week High Trailing P/E Ratio Forward P/E Ratio Price-Book Ratio
BVN 34.51 13.12 10.3 3.5
GSS 59.90 89.9 8.31 1.4
NAK 53.91 n/a n/a 6.5
NG 39.53 n/a n/a 8.5
RBY 45.11 n/a 26.4 3.4
UXG 37.39 n/a n/a 3.1

Sometimes a chart as ugly as this indicates some value to be plucked. That does not appear to be the case this time.

Golden Star had a tough fourth quarter of 2010 and didn’t perform a lot better in the first quarter of this year. And with a trailing P/E of nearly 90, something has to give. The company is re-evaluating operations at one of its major mines and is struggling to keep cash costs under control. Even its very low price/book ratio and its low forward P/E make this a risky play. Golden Star has posted a loss for the last three consecutive quarters, and missed estimates on the quarter before that.

Northern Dynasty posted a 52-week high of more than $21/share in early February and it’s all been pretty consistently downhill since. The company is expected to post a loss in 2011 and again in 2012. The company was chose as a top undiscovered pick by Midas Fund manager Tom Winmill, provided an investor can wait until 2016 for the investment to pay off.  In the meantime, this stock could go lower still, as its price/book ratio indicates.

Rubicon posted a net loss of about US$82 million in 2010 according to US GAAP accounting. The loss under Canadian GAAP totaled CDN$24 million. The company’s former president also sold more than 45 million shares in Rubicon at $4.16/share in a secondary offering from which Rubicon took in not one dime. Shares soared to a record high over $6/share following an announcement in late November that Rubicon’s Phoenix project contained 4 million ounces of gold. When that number was cut to 2.8 million ounces in late June, the shares fell below $3.25. Rubicon’s forward P/E is still too high to justify this as a value stock.

NovaGold, like the others, has failed to keep pace with the price of gold. Investor George Soros dumped more than 9 million shares earlier this year, which didn’t help the stock at all. The company has pinned its hopes on a pre-feasibility study of its Galore Creek property. NovaGold, which also mines substantial amounts of copper, provided another pre-feasibility study on a copper property that was too good for many investors to believe. With no profits to show or to come, and a price/book ratio of 8.5, NovaGold looks like another wait-and-see gold stock.

US Gold completed a secondary offering of over 17 million shares in late February, and the stock actually rose to its 52-week high of $9.44 in early April. Since then the stock has tumbled nearly -40%, even though US Gold’s CEO and largest stockholder, Robert McEwen, proposed offering $626 million in US Gold stock to buy Mineras Andes, another company he controls. The deal would give McEwen a stake in the merged companies of about $358 million. McEwen was the Rubicon investor who also cleaned up on that company’s secondary offering. For a company with no profits to print its own money seems like the height of irrationality. The price/book ratio on US Gold is 3.1, a bit rich all things considered.

Peru’s Buenaventura, with a share price loss of -35% since its peak, is the best of the lot, which isn’t saying much. The company has posted real profits and even pays a dividend. Its dividend yield is a paltry 1.7%, but compared with the rest of this bunch that’s positively nosebleed territory. Buenaventura’s dividend yield is higher than any other gold miner’s, including the big ones like Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX and Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG).

The company’s share price suffers from the recent election of a left-leaning nationalist as Peru’s new president has raised a lot of uncertainty about the future of mining royalties and taxes in the country. This could be particularly hard on Buenaventura and the country in general, which is the world’s leading silver producer, its second leading copper producer, and the world’s sixth-largest producer of gold. Political uncertainty has hit Buenaventura hard and investors are apparently expecting more. Though its shares post a below average P/E ratio, the price/book ratio of 3.5 is still a bit rich.

Paul Ausick