Hogsback explores anomalies in the marketplace

PSST! Wanna make a quick $1000 playing the coal market? Well here’s a tip from Hogsback – buy a parcel of Hunnu Coal shares.

Tim Treadgold

Yes, we all know there’s already a takeover bid on the table for Hunnu from Thailand’s Banpu, but how many of you know that the Hunnu share price is a country mile below the cash offer?

Well actually it’s around 6% below the bid, which in the stock market is the equivalent of a country mile.

When The Hog last looked Hunnu was trading at around $1.70. Banpu was offering $1.80 cash and the Hunnu board was recommending the bid, which means no haggling, just a quick payback.

So stump up $17,000, buy a parcel of Hunnu shares, wait a few weeks, collect a cheque for $18,000, and trouser the spare $1000 – and send a spotter’s fee to The Hog.

If anyone can find a quicker and easier way to make a grand then be a sport and share the good news because right now the financial markets are behaving erratically, interest rates look like they’ll be heading down, and even the gold price has been sinking lately.

Coal, however, remains in demand on the stock market and in the physical commodity market, which leads to a few obvious questions such as:

  • Why is there a glaring gap in the market for Hunnu shares?
  • Why is the Australian coal sector so active at a time when the Australian government plans to hit it with new mining and carbon taxes?
  • Why haven’t other Mongolia-focused coal stocks reacted more positively to the Hunnu bid?
  • And who’s next for the takeover chopping block?

In order, the answers to those questions are that price gap exists because the stock market is suffering a form of shell-shock.

Not only are share prices depressed because investors have fled the scene and hidden their cash under the bed or left it in the bank, or both, but there is a fear about that promised takeover bids will not be delivered, or are questionable in some way.

The situation with a small iron ore miner, Sundance Resources, is partly responsible for the latest outbreak of fright, with the corporate cops making unpleasant allegations about potential inside trading in Sundance.

The result of that little mess is that a promised bid of 50c a share from Sundance’s major shareholder, Hanlong of China, appears to be up in the air, which is why Sundance is trading around 38c, or 30% below the promised 50c.

Hunnu/Banpu is a totally different matter and will almost certainly be a clean takeover, completed quickly.

The second point about coal being in demand was covered in this column last week. Quite simply demand is exceeding supply, the price for thermal coal is likely to continue rising as the world demands more electricity – and no one outside Canberra seems to be taking the slightest notice of the threatened carbon and mining taxes.

The third point about why other Mongolian coal shares have not reacted is more interesting, and perhaps a reflection of the troubles on the stock market because normally a bid for an asset in one sector causes a ripple effect across all players in the same space.

Not this time. Guildford Coal, which is planning to spin off its Mongolian assets into a separate listed vehicle, Terra Energy, fell by around 3c to $1.08 after Banpu announced its Hunnu bid. Aspire fell 7c to 52c and Xanadu fell 4c to 45c.

Which leads to the fourth point – who is next, a question which causes The Hog to shake his head and say “haven’t got a clue”

But having declined to tip the next takeover bid, which is always a dangerous thing to do, it seems fairly obvious that a value gap has opened across the spectrum of coal stocks because of the negative political and financial factors clouding coal market realities.

What that means is that there is an excess of negative political chatter about coal, plus the negative influence of new taxes, plus the overall stock market decline caused largely by the European debt crisis that investors simply haven’t got the courage to look at future coal demand and the estimated future coal price.

Banpu obviously has, and the same can be said for the spate of other takeovers in the coal business – Peabody/Macarthur, Rio Tinto/Riversdale (and Coal & Allied), Alpha/Massey, Arch/Intercontinental and others.

Coal might have its critics, but even they can’t deny that it’s a product the world wants and is prepared to pay for.