Kagara (ASX:KZL) is a copper, zinc-lead and nickel miner, with operations in North Queensland and WA. It has four operational hubs in North Queensland – Mungana, Mt. Garnet, Balcooma and Thalanga.
KZL’s North Queensland mines supply ore to three treatment facilities in Mt. Garnet (copper and polymetallic) and Thalanga (polymetallic).
A strategic review determined KZL’s nickel operations at Lounge Lizard, WA to be non-core, and so the group has put the assets up for sale.
The company faced major operational issues in FY11, which culminated in a $32.2 million loss.
An uncertain outlook for commodities has come at a poor time for Kagara, with its recently announced capital raising highlighting potential cash problems at the company.
Although KZL recently unveiled a five year turnaround strategy, we feel there are significant near-term headwinds that are likely to keep its share price under pressure.
KZL’s September quarter activities report revealed a 3% fall in copper output from the June quarter. However that was balanced by a 13% rise in zinc output.
Cash costs for both commodities fell on the quarter, reflecting the company’s focus on protecting its margins in the face of declining prices.
The quarterly output result followed a hugely disappointing FY11, which was characterised by a $32.2 million loss (compared to a $3.2 million profit in FY10).
The loss came on the back of a $48.5 million write-down of KZL’s Mt. Garnet and Mungana mines (Mungana Mines: MUX is 61.9% owned by KZL).
Production over the year was impacted by a prolonged wet season. This was accompanied by rising cash costs over the year, which came about due to lower zinc output and adverse FX movements.
Uncertain commodities outlook
Europe’s debt crisis coupled with signs of a slowdown in Chinese economic activity has clouded the outlook for KZL’s key commodities – copper and zinc.
Copper has slumped around 17% from the highs it created in July, whilst zinc has suffered similar falls amid persistent concerns about global oversupply.
Copper is usually seen as an economic barometer, and its recent weakness suggests diminishing prospects for global growth.
Although longer-term we expect stronger demand for the red metal, we see more weakness in the near-term as Europe struggles to end its debt crisis.
Cap raising highlights problems
Kagara’s problems ultimately led to a $25 million capital raising (completed today), which it said was to finalise the acquisition of the Einasleigh Copper Deposit at Mt. Garnet.
Einasleigh was bought from Copper Strike (CSE) for $16 million, as part of KZL’s push to ramp up production in the next five years.
The announcement of the raising was surprising considering it came less than three months after KZL unveiled its five year turnaround strategy.
The capital raising suggests KZL is facing cash problems, with the group in a precarious position as it looks to significantly increase exploration activities in North Queensland.
Worryingly, this leaves KZL vulnerable to continued declines in copper prices and any unforseen production delays.
KZL has been hit hard in recent times due to operational issues at its mines. A prolonged wet season led to production delays and write-downs at Mt. Garnet and Mungana, which was reflected in a massive loss for FY11.
Although KZL is to embark on a five year turnaround strategy, it has set itself lofty exploration and production goals. The group aims to produce 30,000tpa of copper by FY15 (FY11: 22,530t) and 71,000tpa of zinc by FY14 (FY11: 40,125t).
KZL’s immediate focus, however, is on ensuring it has enough cash to cover near-term development expenses.
The recently completed capital raising is a worrying sign, and suggests KZL has little room for error in a very uncertain global economy.
A worsening of Europe’s debt crisis could see copper prices come under further selling pressure, thus impacting KZL’s margins.
As a result, we feel there is further near-term weakness in store for KZL’s share price.
KZL’s woes have seen it being a major mover on the ASX, it has plummet more than 60% in 2011.
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