Marin Katusa Values Viable Technologies and Leadership
By: The Energy Report and Marin Katusa
-- Posted Thursday, November 4 2010 | Digg This Article |
Casey Energy Opportunities Senior Editor Marin Katusa shares his perspectives and predictions on the direction in which the energy sector is headed—from popular green alternatives like geothermal, run-of-river hydro and natural gas to the oil sector all the way to the less-popular, but very viable, uranium sector. The Energy Report caught up with Marin at the New Orleans Investment Conference for this exclusive interview.
The Energy Report: Marin, one of the things you mentioned here at the New Orleans Investment Conference and at the Casey Conference is that the current focus on gold means a lot less attention for the energy sector. Can you talk about the overlooked energy stocks you have found?
Marin Katusa: Let's start with the geothermal sector. Two years ago, geothermal was the buzz and hot sector in the junior resource sector. Today, nobody's talking about it. That's beautiful and fine by us because now these companies have developed projects and explored at a much lower cost of capital for present investors. But the investors got bored and sold the stocks. Now these companies are 50% cheaper than they were 16–18 months ago, but they have so much more value today than they did 18 months ago.
TER: What's unique about the geothermal?
MK: Of all the green energies, geothermal is by far the most economic. It makes sense. It works without government subsidies. But, when you include the government subsidies, it's like taking candy from a baby (or from Obama, not sure which is easier). The government's providing the construction loan guarantees and refinancing the projects at around 4% debt versus a year ago when companies were doing it at +14%. That's a big difference on the bottom line for cash flow. You can cheaply buy geothermal companies that actually have positive cash flow. I think it's the cheapest sector today—period.
Geothermal is a very difficult business—you have to produce results. It's not like gold where you can do some geophysics, some trenching, pop a couple of holes and say, "I think I've got 5 million ounces of gold here," then wave your hands and have a +$100 million market-cap company. In geothermal, when you pop in that hole it's going to cost you US$4–$6 million per well and you know what you have.
A lot of mining investors invested in the geothermal sector, but their timeframe was much shorter than that needed for the geothermal sector. Geothermal today is the uranium sector in 2004. Today, gold is hot and the investors took their money and placed it elsewhere. Geothermal is getting no love. We look for undervalued "unloved companies and sectors." And a patient investor will make a lot of money in a few years by investing today in the geothermal sector.
TER: You have said that oil is ripe for a correction. Can you explain why you think that?
MK: There's a lot of speculation in the oil markets. In the summer, we published a research report in the Casey Energy Report, which showed that when the BP spill happened, it took 15% of America's supply offline. You would have assumed the spot price of oil would've corrected upward. What actually happened when all offshore drilling was shut down in the Gulf was the spot price of oil dropped 20%. What does that tell you? The speculators didn't know what to do, so they just got out. They took the money off the table. There's a speculation premium in the oil markets right now. However, on the other side, you need to look at how low oil can go. It's a reflection of the economy and speculation. China will buy up all the oil it can get at US$40/barrel.
TER: Isn't it more a reflection of supply because you're hearing all about peak oil?
MK: Yes, there's the peak oil concept. Look at natural gas. America's been so successful in unconventional shale gas technology, but that's just starting to hit Europe. The Middle East hasn't even started doing unconventional exploration. You've got these great, cheap world-class producers that have been producing the same way they did before I was born over 30 years ago that haven't seen modern American technology. When the American innovation hits the Middle East, you will see a lot more of this supply come online.
TER: To what technology are you referring?
MK: The unconventional shale primarily uses fracking techniques. The hottest thing in Europe right now is the unconventional shale sector. Big funds like the one run by George Soros are investing millions of dollars in the sector—these wells cost more than US$8–$15 million per well. But people are worried because each frack uses 2–5 million gallons of water.
In the old days, when you drilled a well for gas, once you spud—you produce. There's no way to contain it; you have to sell it. So, you dump it into your pipelines and get the price going at the wellhead. Today with the shale technology, you can frack it and it takes you about two days to complete the well. That way, you know how much gas you have and it's a new natural storage facility. You don't have to pump it out. The reservoirs can triple—quadruple if they're successful.
TER: What's the timeframe for getting this unconventional technology into Europe and the Middle East?
MK: It's already starting in Europe. In fact, Casey Research wrote the first research report in the business on the potential of shale gas in Europe.
The year 2013 will be a very important year in the energy world. That is when the HEU Agreement for uranium will be renegotiated. It is also when the government will take another look at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the green energy companies.
The HEU Agreement involves the Russians taking their nuclear warheads, blending them down and converting them into fuel. People forget that the U.S. has 3x the number of warheads as Russia. Will America down blend its own warheads? I don't know. America doesn't have the actual physical, logistical infrastructure to do it within the country. Russia has that infrastructure. America would have to send its warheads to Russia to get uranium back. What a funny result of the Cold War. But in all seriousness, I think you're going to see uranium going sideways. If you're a long-term investor, start picking up these companies on the cheap because they are cheap right now.
TER: If the U.S. decides to downgrade its nuclear weapons, wouldn't that drop the bottom out of the uranium price?
MK: It would; but, as I said, the infrastructure is not in place to do so. I'm pretty sure that every American is going to stand up and say, "No, we're not sending our weapons to Russia to get down blended."
America's problem is that most of the prior production was conventional hard rock. That costs about US$40–$45 to produce. ISR is unconventional; it's an unconventional technique. You can do it for under US$30/lb. There's upside there. You will see a lot more of the word "unconventional," which means it's not the standard or "old" way of doing things. Rather, it uses new, more-proven modern techniques and, eventually, the newer unconventional techniques will replace the older ones.
TER: A theme throughout our discussion is unconventional technology. The last time we chatted you mentioned run-of-river hydro.
MK: That's not really unconventional; run-of-river hydro has been around for a long time. It's an old technology—a proven technology. Run-of-river is my second favorite green energy. It's also economic without government subsidies. The difference between run-of-river and geothermal is that geothermal has a larger baseload. However, run-of-river is a lower upfront cost.
TER: One of the pieces of advice you give investors is to sell and take a Casey Free Ride. But you also say to play only with money you're willing to lose. So, what do you put your money in if it's not in the risk part of your portfolio? Also, could you explain the Casey Free Ride concept again for our readers who might not be familiar with it?
MK: Casey's Free Ride is when returns make you feel you want to take a profit, always take your initial investment out or more if you want. What remains invested is like playing with the house's money in a casino. At that point, you can't lose.
It's difficult for me to compare myself to someone who doesn't live, eat and breathe this business the way I do. Outside of my real estate holdings, I have cash. All the rest is in junior resource stocks. I believe that if you invest in companies that don't yet have the institutional interest but do have great management and people, you will do well. That's the key. You have to invest with people who've done it before and who invest heavily in these companies personally. That's what winners do. It's important to follow that formula.
TER: Very good Marin. Thank you for your time.
Investment Analyst Marin Katusa is the senior editor of Casey's Energy Report, Casey's Energy Opportunities and Casey's Energy Confidential. He left a successful teaching career to pursue what has proven an equally successful—and far more lucrative—career analyzing and investing in junior resource companies. With a stock pick record of 19 winners in a row—a 100% success rate last year—Marin's insightful research has made his subscribers a great deal of money. Using his advanced mathematical skills, he created a diagnostic resource market tool that analyzes and compares hundreds of investment variables. Through his own investments and his work with the Casey team, Marin has established a network of relationships with many of the key players in the junior resource sector in Vancouver. In addition, he is a member of the Vancouver Angel Forum, where he and his colleagues evaluate early seed investment opportunities. Marin also manages a portfolio of international real estate projects.
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-- Posted Thursday, November 4 2010 | Digg This Article |
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