How to pick gold stock takeover targets in 2012

With gold mining stocks hovering near two-years low, the mining sector is looking ripe for consolidation. Here are three tips for identifying potential gold mining takeover targets.

“The gold miners are cheaper today versus the price of gold than at any time in this 12-year bull market,” Fred Hickey of the Barron’s Roundtable said recently (per IBT). Indeed, gold stocks are hovering near two-years low, and the mining sector is looking ripe for consolidation. Here are three tips for identifying potential gold mining takeover targets:

1) Follow the pros. One of my favorite tactics for identifying strong junior mining companies is by looking at the companies professionals are investing in. A great starting place is the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDXJ). This ETF invests in a basket of junior gold mining stocks, and the fund regularly updates its holdings. As of right now, GDXJ holds shares in 82 companies (download the excel file here), and it reads like a who’s who in the industry – particularly when you’re looking at the miners towards the top of the list.

Right now, GDXJ likes Perseus Mining (TSE:PRU), Silvercorp Metal (NYSE:SVM), Medusa Mining (ASX:MML), Rubicon Minerals (AMEX:RBY), Endeavour Silver (NYSE:EXK), Evolution Mining (ASX:CAH) and Aurizon Mines (AMEX:AZK) among others.

2) Look at past acquisitions. Perhaps the best way to see which gold mining stocks are worthy of acquiring is by looking at past acquisitions for clues. In March, for example, Pan American Silver Corp. (NASDAQ:PAAS) completed its acquisition of gold and silver mining company Minefinders Corp. Ltd. Let’s take a look at what made Minefinders a tantalizing takeover target:

  • A producing gold and silver mine at the multi-million ounce Dolores project in Northern Mexico.
  • 2.34 million ounces of proven and probable gold (as of 2010) as well as 119 million ounces of proven and probable silver.
  • Low cash costs of $450-$500 per gold ounce equivalent.
  • A small debt load and more than $200 million in cash before the acquisition

Find a company with similar prospects and you’ve probably identified a takeover target.

3) Positive cashflow. It seems obvious, but a lot of beginning gold and silver investors like the idea of getting in on a junior mining stock before they hit the mother lode during exploratory drilling. In my mind, that’s a lot like gambling, and I encourage investors to look instead at junior gold miners that are already pulling ore out of the ground.

The majors want to acquire companies that have made it through the often arduous permitting process, have proven reserves and are already generating cashflow. At that point, the major just needs to bring in its deep pockets and mining expertise to join in the reaping of rewards.

So, while it’s definitely tempting to try to guess which junior mining company is going to uncover the next Brucejack project, you’re a lot safer buying shares in a miner that’s already making money. It’s not as glamorous, but trust me – it’s probably more profitable.