Iron Ore Shares to Buy: Atlas Iron (AGO)


Iron Ore Shares to Buy: Atlas Iron (AGO)|ASX AGO Stocks NewsAtlas Iron (ASX:AGO) is an emerging iron ore producer and explorer.

With a growing number of high quality iron ore projects and one of the largest landholdings in the lucrative Pilbara region, AGO is now one of the area’s largest iron ore producers.

The company has a significant number of direct shipping ore (DSO) projects in WA. DSO projects are those that are in close proximity to ports, which helps to significantly lower capital costs.

One of the more recent ones, the Mount Dove DSO Project, is expected to contribute to AGO’s shipping tonnes later this calendar year.

Iron ore in spotlight

Iron ore miners have been in focus over the past few weeks due to a combination of factors. Among these is the improving prospect for iron ore.

We don’t believe the current spot price around $142 a tonne reflects what is still a favourable supply/demand dynamic for Aussie miners.

The European debt crisis forced some of the higher cost iron ore miners to cut back production last year.

This is likely to ensure the iron market remains in a supply deficit for a few more years yet, which not only supports prices but provides an opportunity for low-cost producers like AGO to fill the breach.

Also, the Glencore/Xstrata merger proposal has thrown the spotlight on pure play iron ore miners. Given the commodities giants’ lack of iron ore assets, the merger may encourage existing iron ore companies to either consolidate or potentially be the subject to an offer.

Output hit by cyclone

For the December quarter, Atlas Iron reported an 11% quarter-on-quarter fall in iron ore mined.  This was due to Tropical Cyclone Heidi, which impacted mining operations and damaged the Utah Point ship loading facility at Port Hedland.

As a result, AGO downgraded its FY12 production target to 5.5 – 5.7 million tonnes, from the previous 6 million tonnes.  However cash costs were within AGO’s targeted $42/ton-$45/ton range for FY12.

AGO, like other iron ore miners, suffered from a fall in iron ore prices during the quarter. However it also positioned itself to take advantage of a recovery in prices.

The company moved from quarterly pricing of its contracts towards shorter term reference points. This means it is more directly exposed to spot prices, which have trended higher in recent months.

Outlook

Despite last quarter’s operational issues, AGO managed to grow its cash pile from $373 million to $380 million.

With strong operating cash flows and competitive cost of production, AGO has significant capacity to fund development projects such as the Mt. Dove mine.

Although AGO faced a number of headwinds in the December quarter, we think it is well placed to take advantage of a recovery in iron ore prices. Atlas Iron (AGO) is an emerging iron ore producer and explorer.

With a growing number of high quality iron ore projects and one of the largest landholdings in the lucrative Pilbara region, AGO is now one of the area’s largest iron ore producers.

The company has a significant number of direct shipping ore (DSO) projects in WA. DSO projects are those that are in close proximity to ports, which helps to significantly lower capital costs.

One of the more recent ones, the Mount Dove DSO Project, is expected to contribute to AGO’s shipping tonnes later this calendar year.

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