The Financial Post takes a look at 11 people and companies we’ll be watching closely in the new year.
One week before Halloween, Canada’s biggest gold enthusiast, the septuagenarian billionaire Eric Sprott, wearing a neatly pressed tuxedo, bounded onto a stage in a downtown Toronto ballroom and accepted his induction into Canada’s Investment Industry Hall of Fame.
He declared himself both humbled and honoured, and then rollicked into the wee hours of the night at his home in a nearby tower with expansive views of the city’s sparkling skyline. The next morning, though 75 and technically retired, he showed up at his office, grumbling about a lack of sleep, but dressed in a magenta-coloured, paisley button-up, ready for a 9 a.m. meeting with a penny stock exploration company.
“I keep reading that people are never making (gold) discoveries, the rate of discoveries is going down,” he said, occasionally rubbing his temples and closing his eyes. “The funny thing, well, I guess I’m the sucker then because I keep buying guys who say they’re making discoveries.”
But Sprott added he believes there are discoveries, not by the major miners, but by junior gold and silver explorers.
Just as the price of gold often moves in the opposite direction of the stock market, Sprott has a strong contrarian streak that means he also often moves in the opposite direction of the market. For example, this past spring, after years of middling precious metal prices and declining discoveries had led most investors to abandon Canada’s gold and silver explorers, he decided to go all-in.
Sprott launched an investment blitz, the likes of which the junior mining precious metals sector had seldom seen, doling out somewhere between $200 and $300 million in a matter of just a few months to acquire large stakes in about two dozen companies, most of which have never earned a dollar of revenue.
His investments between May and July accounted for about one in every four dollars raised by junior miners, according to Vancouver-based market research firm Oreninc. During that time, gold prices started to rise, breaking through US$1,400 in June for the first time in six years, bringing some investors back to the major miners — exactly where Sprott doesn’t want to be.
“They’re the worst place to put money, okay?” he said.
Putting his money where his mouth is, he has been selling his position in Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd., one of, if not the lowest-cost gold producers and one of the best-performing stocks on the S&P/TSX Composite Index since 2016.
Sprott was an early investor in Kirkland Lake, was appointed chairman in 2015, and one year later helped engineer its merger with Newmarket Gold Inc., a small gold producer in Australia. Not long after, the newly merged company discovered high-grade veins at two mines, which propelled its stock upwards to $63 per share.
Many investors pride themselves on not selling when a stock hits a bump, but Sprott said it is equally important to not sell when the stock rises, at least not until it’s gone up five or even 10 times, a so-called tenbagger.
“I’ve had lots of tenbaggers and the important thing is to stay in it,” he said.
But when his stake in Kirkland Lake reached about $1.3 billion earlier this year, and it looked like gold prices would keep rising, Sprott said he decided it was time to sell.
“Here’s what I say to the management of Kirkland Lake: you will not be the No. 1 performing stock this year,” he said during an interview in October. “You will not be, because companies like Eldorado (Gold Corp.) and Detour (Gold Corp.) are going to kick your butt.”
In November, Kirkland Lake announced it was buying Detour Gold Corp., and its stock fell by 15 per cent in a day, wiping out what he estimated to be around $140 million of his net worth.
And yet, Sprott — who found out about the deal on a day he was meeting with a junior mining company seeking investment — elected to support the deal, and waxes enthusiastic about Detour.
Sprott’s logic for why higher-cost producers may shine now is straightforward. Since June, the price of gold has risen by approximately US$200, or 15 per cent, to around US$1,467 per ounce. The gold miners that could barely cut a profit when gold was worth less than US$1,200 per ounce because their costs were too high could now be in line to double or triple their thin profits. But lower-cost producers, already reaping huge profits, will see only incremental gains from gold’s price increase.
It’s one of the reasons why Sprott doesn’t much care about Canada’s major gold miners.
The best-run companies might provide 20- or 30-per-cent returns, or maybe 100 per cent in a few cases, but Sprott would rather invest in a company that might strike gold and give him a 500-per-cent return, or even a coveted 1,000-per-cent return.
Indeed, as merger activity heats up in the gold space, another one of Sprott’s investments, Continental Gold Inc., announced a $1.4-billion cash buyout at $5.50 per share.
In July, Sprott had bought about 10 million shares at $3.10, meaning he made about $25 million or a 75-per-cent return in just a few months. But he was nonplussed, saying the buyout may have come a little early.
“You’ve got to have the dream, right?” he said. “You’ve got to have the dream you’re going to find something.”
Therein lies Sprott’s biggest paradox: he’s eager to believe that junior gold miners are on the verge of striking the motherlode, but skeptical of nearly everything else related to the gold industry.
You’ve got to have the dream, right? You’ve got to have the dream you’re going to find somethingEric Sprott
After a five-decade career in the financial services industry, during which he worked as an investment banker and founded an eponymous empire that includes fund and asset management firms, a brokerage firm, bullion storage and more businesses, he is skeptical of commercial banks, major precious metals miners, central banks, the stated rate of annual inflation and, perhaps above all, gold and silver prices.
“One of the things about the media, they never talk about the gold conspiracy,” he said. “Look at the guys who are paying fines for spoofing the precious metals markets. Every two weeks some guy’s paying a fine.”
Case in point, U.S. prosecutors in September filed criminal charges against three JPMorgan Chase & Co. bankers for allegedly spoofing the precious metals market, which means placing fake orders and then quickly cancelling them to manipulate the price. The indictment alleged a decade-long conspiracy.
Sprott believes the futures market — where investors can buy options that essentially allow them to place bets on the price of gold or silver without actually having to own any of the metals — allows commercial banks to exert way too much influence on the market for physical metals.
As someone who stockpiles bullion, and often gives it out as a gift, he watches the prices of silver and gold so closely it often colours his mood.
This fall, Sprott was out fishing for grouper on a staffed boat somewhere warm on a Friday when he normally records his podcast. In spite of his idyllic circumstances, he sounded distinctly downtrodden when he called in to the podcast.
“I’ve had better days, you know, it’s a bit of a tough one,” he said.
As the podcast progressed, it soon became clear that gold and silver prices were both down, about four and six per cent, respectively, and options market manipulation appeared to be the reason to him.
Juan Carlos Artega, director of investment research at the World Gold Council, is skeptical that banks are having a significant effect on gold or silver prices through the futures market, but believes options do have an impact on short-term prices.
As someone who stockpiles bullion, and often gives it out as a gift, he watches the prices of silver and gold so closely it often colours his mood
“What you find is that the gold price is responding to demand-and-supply dynamics including those on the (options) market, but it’s only one component,” he said.
Artega said central bank and consumer buying, production numbers, recycling, investment in gold-backed exchange-traded funds and a host of other factors play a role in determining long-term prices.
Sprott would hear none of it, and said he’s long disagreed with the World Gold Council about many things. His skepticism of the futures market ties in to his skepticism of the financial market writ large.
“We have a weird financial system; it doesn’t make any sense to a rational thinker,” he said.
Gene McBurney, co-founder of GMP Securities LP, once a competitor of Sprott Inc. in the investment business and now a friend, said part of the key to understanding Sprott is that he enjoys entertaining other people with provocative comments.
“He’s told people there’s no gold in Fort Knox; that kicks off an interesting conversation,” he said.
But McBurney added that he believes Sprott is extremely well versed in the companies in which he invests, and he has even given some of his personal money to Sprott to manage.
Peter Grosskopf, chief executive of Sprott Inc., the asset management firm Sprott founded and a mentee, said Sprott is always covered as being this “unbelievable gold bug,” but there’s a lot more to it than that.
“I mean, he’s a savant at what he does,” said Grosskopf, who added that it’s not easy to explain how Sprott does what he does.
That’s mainly because Sprott is investing in companies that have no revenue, which means standard investment metrics, such as internal rate of return, aren’t necessarily useful, never mind that he said they’re not something he would use.
He’s a savant at what he doesPeter Grosskopf, chief executive of Sprott Inc.
Instead, he attempts to value companies based on whether they are likely to discover a deposit of precious metals.
Of course, even if a company discovers a deposit, it would still need to figure out whether it makes economic sense to extract the deposit, including how much it would cost to build and operate a mine, which requires further calculations about energy costs, transportation, processing and refining, and so on.
Sprott said he focuses solely on the deposit and how big it could be. Though he has no education in geology, he said he has devised his own valuation method, which involves looking at a few variables to determine the potential size of a deposit.
“I want to turn it into numbers, like, okay, what could this thing earn?” he said. “You know, you multiply the strike by the depth by the width by 2.7 specific gravity times the ounces — it’s just four or five things you’ve got to multiply, five things.”
People close to him said he studies junior mining companies and can recall the details of his investments better than most fund managers.
“The guy gets up at ungodly hours, he might get up at 2 a.m. studying,” said Conor O’Brien, a former capital markets manager who joined Sprott in May to help with the investment blitz. “Neither one of us are geologists, we’re just financial people that can do mathematics, as opposed to the geology. We more kind of conceptualize, and dream and kind of multiply.”
Putting his latest investment spree of more than $200 million in perspective, the TSX Venture Exchange’s junior mining sector through August was on course to raise $2 billion for all of 2019, about 27 per cent less than it did in 2009.
Sprott takes a birdshot approach to investment that spreads his money far and wide, so that his portfolio contains companies exploring for high-grade and low-grade mines, potential open-pit and potential underground mines, and so on.
“Most of them won’t make it,” he said. “But what about the ones that do? If I’m in early and I stay the ground, I press the bet. It’s like being at a table with a winning run, you keep doubling down.”
Grosskopf said Sprott calls it “stealing value,” not because he’s conning anyone, but because he’s investing in assets the market has mispriced. He said the billionaire is an expert trader, adept at sizing up an opportunity and timing his entrance and exit.
And because of his outsized profile, recently juiced by his epic returns while chairman of Kirkland Lake, there are hordes of investors who will follow his lead, Grosskopf said.
Not all of Sprott’s bets work out, of course. In 2017, Sprott said he invested in Garibaldi Resources Corp., a nickel explorer, based on comments he read on an online chat board.
Its stock surged 1,731 per cent that year, and Sprott has continued to invest even though two years later, its stock has declined from a peak above $4 in late 2017 to 87 cents today.
“They’re for sure drilling, we know that, and they’ve announced some holes, and they’ve got more to go,” Sprott said. “They haven’t found the motherlode they’re looking for. Even I’ll say that.”
Sprott’s vast ownership may also have a downside: It’s not easy to liquidate his positions in companies without attracting attention. But his vast wealth also means he’s relatively insulated from a lot of threats, such as dilutive financings or litigation, that smaller investors can’t afford to participate in.
He also owns a private gold mining company in Nevada called Jerritt Canyon Gold LLC, which he said made its first profit in the third quarter.
Kevin Small, vice-president of operations at that mine, said Sprott likes to be generous. In April, he said Sprott showed up at the site and handed out silver coins to several hundred people who work there.
“He said when you guys make lots of money, I’ll give you each a gold coin, but he hasn’t been back yet,” Small said.
But he added that Sprott has been investing heavily in the operation, which has a capacity to produce 280,000 ounces of gold per year, and predicted the company would soon be well known.
Colleagues also add that he can be unrelenting when judging a company’s financial performance. Case in point, one of his biggest gripes with Kirkland Lake is that he wants it to increase its dividend, an issue he once again raised in October after the miner posted solid quarterly results.
Kirkland Lake pays a quarterly dividend of four cents, and chief executive Tony Makuch said he may consider raising it, but the company still needs to spend money on exploration so it can improve its reserves of gold.
“We’re not an industry people should be buying for dividends,” Makuch said. “You should be buying bank stocks or something else. If you look at our share price, that comes from investing in new projects.”
It’s a sentiment that Sprott would likely agree with.
“I still have a lot of money in Kirkland and it’s a great company, but it’s not a tenbagger from here,” he said. “And I like tenbaggers as opposed to 100 per cent. It’s just my nature.”
FedDev Ontario Investment Contribution to TRCA Will Support Enhanced Visitor Experiences at Bruce's Mill Conservation Park – TRCA
August 9, 2022, Toronto, ON – Visitors to Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park in Stouffville, ON will enjoy enhanced experiences thanks to an investment contribution from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) that will help to revitalize the park infrastructure.
The Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville made the funding announcement today at Bruce’s Mill.
The investment contribution of up to $740,715 will support improvements at Bruce’s Mill intended to positively impact both the local community and visitors to the park, allowing more people to re-engage with their communities and nature.
These improvements include: the installation of two new picnic shelters, the addition of 15 new accessible picnic tables for community use, and the upgrading of three washrooms to improve accessibility and physical distancing components. In addition, the park access roads and parking lots will be paved and repaired.
“Our government is investing in community infrastructure to support the mental and physical health of Canadians by promoting social interaction and physical activity. This Canada Community Revitalization Fund investment for Toronto and Region Conservation Authority will help revitalize the Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park’s public infrastructure. This revitalization will help draw visitors to Bruce’s Mill, where they can come together, enjoy the outdoors and be active.”
— The Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
“The investment by FedDev Ontario will not only improve visitor experiences at Bruce’s Mill but will accommodate the increased demand for outdoor recreation and provide safe alternative recreational activities as we all recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is investments like these that allow TRCA to keep our parks and trails in a state of good repair while increasing community connection and improving accessibility to our visitors.”
— – Michael Tolensky, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)
TRCA’s Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park
Conveniently located off Highway 404, Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park is a popular destination for the five million residents within our jurisdiction and from many tourists from around the world. In addition to picnic areas and trails, recreational facilities at the park include a professionally designed golf driving range and a BMX cycling track. To learn more visit trca.ca/bruces-mill.
About Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)
With more than 60 years of experience, TRCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario, created to safeguard and enhance the health and well-being of <span data-trca-tooltip="
The entire area of land whose runoff water, sediments and dissolved materials (nutrients and contaminants) drain into a lake, river, creek, or estuary. Its boundary can be located on the ground by connecting all the highest points of the area around the river, stream or creek, where water starts to flow when there is rain. It is not man-made and it does not respect political boundaries.” class=”glossary-term”>watershed communities through the protection and <span data-trca-tooltip="
To repair or re-establish functioning ecosystems; the process of altering a site to establish a defined, native, historic ecosystem; the goal is to emulate the structure, function, diversity and dynamics of a specified ecosystem.” class=”glossary-term”>restoration of the natural environment and the <span data-trca-tooltip="
Ecological services are defined as the overall benefits to humans arising from a functioning healthy ecosystem, which includes improved water quality and quantity, air quality, soil stabilization, flood mitigation, balanced hydrologic regimes, biological processes and biodiversity. Ultimately, the streams in TRCA’s watersheds run into Lake Ontario and have a direct influence on the water quality and habitat along the waterfront.” class=”glossary-term”>ecological services the environment provides. More than five million people live within TRCA-managed watersheds, and many others work in and visit destinations across the jurisdiction. These nine watersheds, plus their collective Lake Ontario waterfront shorelines, span six upper-tier and 15 lower-tier municipalities. Some of Canada’s largest and fastest growing municipalities, including Toronto, Markham and Vaughan, are located entirely within TRCA’s jurisdiction.
To learn more about TRCA, visit trca.ca.
Senior Manager, Communications, Marketing and Events
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)
Short Term vs Long Term Investments: Gauging the saving spectrum – Economic Times
Quick wealth creation is what financial markets consider; however, investing as a practice is a long-term process. While an investor’s capital can be invested in the short-term and long-term, both forms of investment have their merits and demerits.
Typically, short-term investments involve less risk than long-term investments. Long-term investments give the investor’s money a substantial period to grow and recover from major dips in the market.
Having clear and crisp financial goals can help the investor decide whether to choose short or long-term investments and which vehicles within those categories aim towards personalized investment gains.
Before choosing any investment strategy, the investor ideally needs to do proper research on which asset types suits their need.
What is suitable for one investor might not be in sync with another’s financial objectives, so one must consider their overall goals along with the risks one is willing to take.
Short-term investments have a validity period typically up to three years – high liquidity instruments, generally involving lesser market risks.
Also, these temporary investments are mostly used for parking excess funds for a short period. Short-term investments are highly liquid and hence are used by investors to meet expected near-future expenses.
Less risky in nature, these short-term investment products have a short tenure and give predictable returns as compared to long-term investments be it –
● Treasury bills which can be redeemed within 91 days and is a high liquidity instrument.
● Gilt Funds which invest only in government securities and owing to zero credit risk, are safe investment funds.
● Ultra-short-term debt funds wherein the maturity period ranges between three to six months and provides comparatively higher returns.
● Low duration debt funds whose maturity period ranges between six and 12 months, these funds invest in debt and money market instruments.
● Money market funds that invest in money market instruments and have a redemption period of up to one year.
● Bank fixed deposits that can be renewed on maturity and their tenure can range from 14 days to 10 years. Also, liquidity can be a concern here as some banks don’t allow premature withdrawals.
● Company fixed deposits can have a tenure of more than one year
● Post office time deposits have tenures ranging from one to five years and similarly Recurring deposits can open an RD for a duration as low as six months. Sweep-in-Fixed Deposits as against low returns on savings accounts, these offer comparatively higher returns, with a minimum tenure of around 12 months.
On the other hand, long-term investments are investments that can offer high returns after several years, typically five years or more – involving more market risks.
Be it via stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, etc. Investments in stocks earn quite high returns if patience is kept high (Of course, this cannot be guaranteed but you should assess your risk-taking capacity before thinking of investing in stocks).
Having a deeper understanding of the market movements so that the investor makes wiser financial decisions and when to sell the stocks, investing in stocks and securities requires a trusted financial partner, who can provide hassle-free features to open an online Demat and Trading Account.
Another long-term investment avenue for receiving higher returns is Equity Mutual Funds where the investor gets to pick from small, mid-cap, and large-cap equity mutual funds for the long term to achieve greater financial goals.
Ultimately, the short-term investment gives levy to the investor to achieve their financial goals within a short span and with lower risk (depending on which asset you pick), if the investor has a greater risk appetite, and wants higher returns, they can select a long-term investment avenue.
To further simplify, if the investor wants to preserve their capital and is happy with moderate returns then they may choose short-term investments but, with the expectation of a higher return, the investor may invest in long-term investment avenues.
(The author is Senior Vice President, at mastertrust)
(Disclaimer: Recommendations, suggestions, views and opinions given by the experts are their own. These do not represent the views of Economic Times)
Hong Kong Investment Bank’s 2,325% Surge Baffles Local Investors – BNN
(Bloomberg) — Another little-known Hong Kong-based financial services firm is mystifying investors with a dramatic price surge following its US listing.
Magic Empire Global Ltd., which provides underwriting and advisory services and has helped just one company go public since 2020, surged 2,325% in its debut session Friday in New York to a market capitalization larger than football club Manchester United Plc. Magic Empire is the seventh firm this year from Hong Kong or China to experience similarly surprising moves.
“This price level has clearly shown it is not sustainable,” said Ken Shih, head of wealth management in Greater China at Saxo Capital Markets HK Ltd., adding that without knowing who is doing the buying, it is hard to be definitive. “At this point, downside risk for investors clearly outweighs upside.”
Last week, Hong Kong financial services provider AMTD Digital Inc. briefly became bigger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. after a 14,000% gain in less than a month. The moves are particularly notable at a time of otherwise muted IPO activity and with Chinese companies Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc. threatened with delisting if they fail to comply with American auditing standards.
Magic Empire reported revenue of $2.2 million in 2021, a 17% drop from a year earlier. The company’s operating entity, Giraffe Capital Ltd., completed just one IPO in 2020 and none last year “due to COVID-19 and volatile outlook of the Hong Kong capital market,” according to the prospectus. Friday’s price surge brought Magic Empire’s market capitalization to $1.9 billion.
“The wild swings are likely due to the concentrated ownership, which certainly raises red flags,” said Kakei Lam, fund investment officer at Metaverse Securities Ltd. “I don’t see a resemblance to the meme-stock mania, given the thin trading volume.”
Magic Empire’s chairman Gilbert Chan Wai-ho and chief executive officer Johnson Chen Sze-hon co-lead Giraffe Capital, which obtained a license to provide corporate finance services in 2017. The firm mostly works on IPOs on GEM, the small-cap exchange, and often engages other small local brokerages as underwriters, including KOALA Securities Ltd., HKMonkey.com and Yellow River Securities Ltd. Chan and Chen own most of Magic Empire, with a combined stake of about 63%. The firm had just nine employees as of December 2021, according to its prospectus.
Hong Kong’s Scandal-Plagued Small-Cap Exchange Left for Dead
About half of the companies Giraffe Capital has taken public jumped on the first day, some by as much as 125%. Seven are now trading 30% to 92% lower than IPO price and another has been delisted.
Magic Empire didn’t respond to an email request for comment and calls to the phone number listed on its website weren’t answered.
In the first half of this year, fundraising in the Hong Kong IPO market dropped 92%. With the tiny companies that make up their customer base under close regulatory watch, small- and mid-sized financial advisory firms like Giraffe Capital have had a particularly tough time.
In 2017 and 2021, the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong stock exchange issued two rounds of warnings about so-called ramp-and-dump schemes tied to small-cap IPOs. These schemes manipulate very thin trading volume to inflate prices, luring unwary investors before shares collapse.
The SFC declined to comment for this article, but has previously identified four typical features of problematic IPOs:
- Market capitalization barely meets the minimum threshold
- Price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is very high given the firm’s fundamentals and the valuations of its peers
- Underwriting commissions or other listing expenses are unusually high
- Shareholding is highly concentrated in a limited number of shareholders
Magic Empire’s relatively modest revenue means it qualifies as an “emerging growth company” under American legislation, according to its prospectus. These firms enjoy reduced reporting requirements compared to larger US-listed public companies, with only two years of audited financial statements required and disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation pared back.
(Updates with Kakei Lam’s comments.)
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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