Capitalize on Oil Stock Fluctuations
Source: George Mack of The Energy Report (6/7/11)
June 9th, 2011
Chen Lin is a successful resource investor who loves energy equities because he can uncover treasures still hidden from the very markets that will later recognize their value and bid them up. In this exclusive interview with The Energy Report, Chen shares names of some of his favorite positions currently boosting his portfolio.
Groundstar Resources Ltd.
Harvest Natural Resources
Leader Energy Services Ltd.
Mart Resources Inc.
Pan Orient Energy Corp.
Porto Energy Corp.
Prophecy Resource Corp.
Vaalco Energy Inc.
Vast Exploration Inc.
The Energy Report: You spoke to The Energy Report approximately three months ago. We've been experiencing some weakness in natural resources since then. How has your portfolio performed since that time?
Chen Lin: It's doing relatively OK. It's down slightly, but not much. In the past few months, I've been telling my subscribers to be careful, to raise some cash and to be prepared and to buy on a dip. In the past couple of weeks, I have started to deploy some capital into buying those cheap, undervalued stocks. So far I've been doing OK, down slightly, I would say a few percent.
TER: Have these buys on dips been additions to existing positions? Or are these new stocks?
CL: Some of these stocks were already in my portfolio and some are new positions. I also want to say that I have sold some at a profit, including some of the stocks mentioned in my last interview with The Energy Report.
TER: You've told me that you focus on resources because the entire sector is under-researched, and you can find undiscovered jewels. How do you find an orphan stock? Do you discover these companies at conferences, seminars? What is the process?
CL: I find some companies at conferences. Some are already known and they come here to have private meetings, at which time I'm able to talk to the management. Also, I receive recommendations from people I know and trust who have already done some screening. So I can take a look see if a company's really good.
TER: Typically, people won't be talking to you about companies that they might buy next week or the week after. They're talking to you about companies they already own. You have to make a judgment at that point on whether or not you're throwing good money after bad, or whether it's truly a great growth or value opportunity. Don't you?
CL: Yes, absolutely. I should also add that some companies actually have business relationships with some of my friends who may already own the stock. So, they have some personal incentive to promote the company. But that's fine. I only look at the valuation. When they bring companies to my attention, I do the research, and elect not to buy most of them. Many stocks have been thrown to me, but I only pick a few that I believe are the best.
TER: There is so much risk involved in a company that is not under the microscope. So much can fly under the radar. How much diligence do you do? How long does it take before you enter a position in a company that you've never known before?
CL: Usually it takes some time. Sometimes it takes days. Sometimes it takes weeks. Sometimes it takes months and then years. If I find a company of interest, I'm going to look at the back history. When did it do a private placement? When does a share become a free trade (expiration of lockup period)? Is it a flow-through share, or is it a regular share? Who are the shareholders? I want to see when it might be most likely that people will be selling the stock.
So even if I like a particular stock now, I might put it on my calendar to look at it six months from now. Perhaps at that time those private placements will be finished selling shares, and it could be a better time to enter the stock. So to answer your question, it really depends.
TER: So you want to see how much selling there is after a lockup expires.
CL: Exactly. As I told my subscribers, one stock I was recently buying is a flow through, and it will expire. You buy a little bit, and then when it drops, you buy more. When the stock dropped 30% in a couple of weeks, we bought more. Now it's up 30%. If you followed those steps, you could have 30% gains in a week or two.
TER: You probably find it to be a good sign if insider ownership is increased from quarter to quarter.
CL: Absolutely. We're in a period in which some energy stocks were hit really hard. And when an insider buys from the open market, that's a very good sign.
TER: Out of the entire resource sector, in which industries are you currently overweight, and in which are you underweight?
CL: I'm currently overweighting energy because usually summer is a very good season for energy stocks. There are going to be heat waves and rolling blackouts, and oil demand is very high.
TER: Do you currently prefer oil to gas?
CL: Oh yes, I'm heavily in favor of oil. I would not want to look at a company producing gas in North America unless it's an extremely compelling situation. Gas is very, very cheap here in the United States. If you calculate the gas-to-oil equivalent, the gas price is $25–$30/bbl right now, while WTI oil is $100/bbl. So, basically, if you use gas to run your car, it's about $1 per gallon gasoline equivalent.
The United States is the world's largest oil consumer, and it should be a no-brainer to switch to natural gas. In fact, most of the natural gas here is produced in North America, while oil is produced around the world, and by a lot of countries that are enemies of the United States. Even in China, where the price of imported natural gas is very high, people are still switching from gasoline to natural gas.
It's very easy to switch. You just need to convert your engine, and it's a very simple conversion. But it takes government will to do that because you need to build natural gas fueling stations nationwide. Once those are built, people will enjoy $1 per gallon natural gas that is sourced in North America. I do not understand why the government is not going for that. Government is run by a lot of supposedly intelligent people. One day they will wake up and say we should use natural gas, and so I'm very bullish on natural gas for the long run.
TER: During the month of May, Brent crude tested $110/bbl on the downside three times. It looks like a perfect triple bottom, and now oil has bounced. Was that what we needed for oil to continue its bull market?
CL: Goldman said before that it was bearish on oil, and that pushed oil down. Now Goldman is bullish on oil, and it goes up. I think maybe we're in a trading range for the near future. But my energy companies are making extremely good cash flows at the current price. I'd like the price to go lower.
Although I invest in energy companies, I wish oil would go down to $80–$90/bbl. My oil companies are low-cost producers, and they can still make a lot of money at $80–$90/bbl. They don't really need $110/bbl to make extra profits. So I actually hope energy prices will come down further, but I'm not counting on that. As for the technical side, $110/bbl seems to be the support level.
TER: What companies are you favoring right now?
CL: My current biggest position is Mart Resources Inc. (TSX.V:MMT). It's a light sweet oil producer in Nigeria. The company has been ramping up production very nicely; current production is probably three times last year's rate, and going higher. Well drilling continues, and production just keeps growing. The stock is trading at 1X pretax cash flow right now, and if production continues to progress, it will be trading below 1X cash flow. We know that most of the energy companies are trading at least 3–5X cash flow. Because it's a Nigerian company, you have to give it a little discount, but it's still extremely undervalued.
TER: You say it's undervalued, but its share price performance has been stronger than most of its peers over the last year.
CL: Yes. I think that's partly because it has such a strong cash flow supporting its stock. This company is generating $15–$20 million per month in pretax cash flow right now, and the market cap is only $200M; that's a really compelling valuation, and I believe the stock will go much higher. [Editor's note: After the interview, Mart Resources published a new presentation stating that they were generating $13.5 million in monthly after-tax cash flow and around $20 million pretax.]
TER: I'm noting that Mart's share of the Umusadege oil field play during Q410 produced 104,000 bbl of oil, compared to 317,000 bbl of oil in Q409. What happened there?
CL: There was a problem with a pipeline. What I heard was that the pipeline owner fired the security staff, and then there was some trouble and a significant pipeline disruption in Q410. But right now, everything has quieted down, and there has been almost no disruption since the beginning of the year.
TER: I also noted that the company announced that the total gross proved reserves in that field increased 56% year over year, to 9.6 MMbbl of oil on December 31, 2010, compared to 6.1 MMbbl at the previous year-end. Is that where you're hanging your theory?
CL: Yes, but I think that's just part of the picture. As the company continues to drill and develop, I believe that the net present value will continue to increase. So far, every well drilled has been a success. So the number will be much higher by the end of this year.
TER: You're still very high on Mart Resources even though it's up 153% over the past year, right?
CL: Yes, that's correct.
CL: Another company is Porto Energy Corp. (TSX.V:PEC). It's a new addition to my newsletter. It owns almost 100% of a big land package in Portugal, but the area has not had any modern exploration yet, and so it's a virgin play. There are top-notch people on board from Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE:DVN), including Joe Ash, who ran the Devon International division, and that was a $10 billion business. He left to run the Porto Energy startup, and it already has a natural gas discovery.
I want to add that the natural gas price in Europe is much higher than in the United States. Porto has a natural gas discovery with a much higher value than the current stock price; also, there are going to be some very exciting oil wells drilled. You can look at Porto's recent presentation to see how big it's aiming. This is an elephant, and so the upside is very big.
TER: Chen, I noted that Porto raised $70 million with its IPO back on March 28th. Did you buy in at the IPO, or after the IPO?
CL: Oh, I didn't participate in the IPO. I already participated in the placement earlier, about two years ago. But I bought from the open market recently, when the price dropped below the IPO.
TER: You said it was a virgin play. Will that $70 million take it to production?
CL: It will take the gas into production. My understanding is that Porto will start producing the gas already discovered in the first half of next year. The good thing about these small companies is that if they drill a well, and it's successful, they can start pumping oil and then truck it out. There are two refineries in Portugal, and both are importing oil. So I think they'll probably be more than happy to replace that with domestic oil, and as soon as the oil flow starts, cash flow will start.
TER: Will the gas production fund operations for oil?
CL: The $70 million will fund the drilling campaign this year and next; next year, the plan is to start selling gas. Joe Ash told me that if oil is found, it's very unlikely that Porto will be an independent company a year from now.
TER: You have been watching insider ownership.
CL: Yes. There are three insider purchase companies I've been watching. One is Groundstar Resources Ltd. (TSX.V:GSA); I mentioned it last time I spoke with you. There has been insider buying, and recently the stock started to rebound. There's one play in Kurdistan, one in South America and one in Egypt. The good thing is that Groundstar is not paying for the drilling, except in Kurdistan. All the others are currently in production.
There are two other companies. One is Harvest Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE:HNR). It's pretty significant that one company vice-president spent a half million dollars to buy on the open market. This company has properties in Indonesia, in Africa (offshore) and in Venezuela. There's an African well being drilled right now, in Gabon. I didn't mention the company last time because it had a little too much debt on its balance sheet. But since then, it has sold its U.S. property for $4–$5/share cash, and the company today has a very clean balance sheet.
After paying down debt and all the other improvements, HNR probably has $3 or $4/share in cash, and this is a $12 stock. The Venezuela property is fully funded and paying dividends, and there is no need for funding. So it's a very good value proposition, and the company is for sale. Management wants to maximize shareholder value. Then you can see the VP put a lot of money into this.
TER: OK, you said there was another insider play?
CL: Yes, another one with a pretty large insider purchase is actually a coal company called Prophecy Resource Corp. (TSX.V:PCY). The CEO has been buying the stock with significant amounts of money recently. Also, other members of management have been buying over the longer term. This company is starting two coal mines in Mongolia. One is already started, and one is in the process of getting the final permit. As we've seen, the price of coal has been rising dramatically. This summer, China is going to be experiencing the worst rolling blackouts in history. So I think there will be a lot of demand from China for its major power source: coal. The future looks very bright for coal. The insider purchases make Prophecy Resource look really good.
TER: Your three insider plays, Groundstar, Harvest Natural Resource and Prophecy, are very interesting stories. What else did you want to mention?
CL: Last time, I mentioned a few stocks I'm still holding: Vaalco Energy Inc. (NYSE:EGY), Pan Orient Energy Corp. (TSX.V:POE) and Vast Exploration Inc. (TSX.V:VST). VAALCO and Pan Orient both have some very significant drilling results coming in the next 6 to 12 months.
TER: You've sold your Leader Energy Services Ltd. (TSX.V:LEA), correct?
CL: That's correct, yes. Leader Energy went up a lot, and I had a pretty good profit so I decided to take the profit on that. I was pretty lucky because I sold it when it was quite high—much higher than the current price.
TER: Leader is up 300% over the past 52 weeks.
CL: I just wanted to say QE2 (Quantitative Easing 2) is finishing at the end of June. The market could be volatile this summer, so it's always nice to have some dry powder. That's pretty much my message right now.
TER: Thank you, Chen.
CL: Thank you—likewise.
Chen Lin writes the popular stock newsletter What Is Chen Buying? What Is Chen Selling?, published and distributed by Taylor Hard Money Advisors, Inc., publisher of J. Taylor's Gold, Energy & Technology Stocks newsletter and Roger Wiegand's Trader Tracks. Using his wife's Roth IRA account, Lin invested $5,411 in December 2002, and by December 31, 2010 it was worth $1,188,993—with no cash added. You can see his portfolio chart here.
A doctoral candidate in aeronautical engineering at Princeton, Chen found his investment strategies were so profitable that he put his Ph.D. on the back burner. Chen worked in the Internet and computer area where he founded a few start-up companies. After the tech bubble burst of 2000, Chen was able to move his technology portfolio into the resource sector with considerable success. Chen employs a value-oriented approach and often demonstrates excellent market timing due to his exceptional technical analysis. To subscribe to Lin's What Is Chen Buying? What Is Chen Selling? newsletter click here, or call Claudio Bassi at (718) 457-1426.
Source: George Mack of The Energy Report (6/7/11)
June 9th, 2011
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1) George Mack of The Energy Report conducted this interview. He personally and/or his family own the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) The following companies mentioned are sponsors of The Energy Report: Mart Resources.
3) Chen Lin: I personally and/or my family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: All stocks mentioned. I personally and/or my family am paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: In early 2010, when Porto Energy was a private company, Chen Lin received shares from the company to introduce it to hedge funds.