Cameco Corp (USA) (NYSE:CCJ) announced earnings expectations for its year ended December 31, 2016 and operational changes planned for 2017.
While it is not our usual practice to disclose earnings expectations, we are announcing our earnings expectations for 2016 in advance of our participation in upcoming investor conferences due to the significant discrepancy between analyst earnings estimates and our current expectations.
“Our current earnings expectations are not reflective of the strength of our core uranium business, which saw us achieve our outlook for delivery volumes at a realized price 83% higher than the current spot price,” said president and CEO, Tim Gitzel. “The current earnings expectations do however reflect the consequences of a continued weak uranium market and our resolve to make the necessary decisions to defend and preserve our core uranium business for the long-term benefit of our stakeholders.”
As expected, Cameco delivered 31.5 million pounds of uranium at an average realized price of $54.46 per pound in 2016. Also, we do not currently expect that any changes to the financial outlook for 2016 presented in the table on page 13 of our third quarter Management’s Discussion and Analysis (our 2016 Financial Outlook Information) will have a material impact on our actual 2016 earnings. However, subject to completion of our quarterly financial close process, annual audit and approval of the 2016 consolidated financial statements by Cameco’s board of directors, we expect to report an IFRS net loss for 2016 due in part to asset impairments resulting from fair market value assessments at year end. We expect our adjusted net earnings for 2016 will be significantly lower than analysts’ earnings estimates. In presenting our adjusted net earnings, we expect to make total adjustments to net earnings between approximately $180 million and $220 million after-tax ($0.45 to $0.56 per share).
Cameco’s full annual results will be released after markets close on February 9, 2017.
As previously reported, Cameco implemented a number of strategic initiatives in 2016 intended to strengthen our core business and enhance financial performance over time. These initiatives include the suspension of production at the Rabbit Lake operation and curtailment of our U.S. mining operations; signing of a collaboration agreement with the aboriginal communities located near our Saskatchewan operations; restructuring of our NUKEM segment and corporate office departments and consolidation of office space. Our legal costs related to our tax dispute with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) also increased as we prepared our case to be heard in the Tax Court of Canada, which started in October. The total estimated cost for all these items is approximately $120 million in 2016. These costs were partially offset by the $59 million of additional income generated by the termination of two long-term supply contracts in the third quarter of 2016. We also recorded an impairment charge for the Rabbit Lake mine and mill in conjunction with the suspension of production.
2017 Operational Changes
Cameco is planning a number of actions in 2017 intended to further reduce costs and improve efficiency at its uranium mining operations. The workforce at the McArthur River, Key Lake and Cigar Lake operations is expected to be reduced by approximately 10% or 120 employees in total. The reduction is planned to be conducted in stages and expected to be completed by the end of May 2017. Affected employees will be offered exit packages that include transition assistance.
Cameco also plans to implement changes to the air commuter service by which employees and contract workers get to and from the mine and mill sites in northern Saskatchewan, as well as work schedule changes to achieve additional cost savings. These changes will begin in April 2017 and are expected to be completed during 2018.
The workforce reduction and changes to air commuter service and work schedules planned at the Saskatchewan operations are not expected to impact production in 2017. However, due to cost cutting measures planned at Inkai, Cameco expects Inkai to produce almost 10% less in 2017 with Cameco’s share being 3.1 million pounds. In 2016, Cameco’s share of Inkai production was 3.3 million pounds.
Information regarding Cameco’s uranium production plans for 2017 will be provided together with Cameco’s full annual results for 2016 after markets close on February 9, 2017.
“We regret the impact of these decisions on affected employees and other stakeholders,” said president and CEO, Tim Gitzel. “These are necessary actions to take in a uranium market that has remained weak and oversupplied for more than five years. While it is positive that we are starting to see other producers announce their intent to reduce supply, we have not yet seen an actual reduction in supply. Ultimately, it will be the return of both term demand and term contracting in a significant way that will signal that market fundamentals have turned more positive. While we expect that this demand and term contracting will come to the market at some point, it has not yet happened. These operational changes are part of our strategy to help us effectively manage the company through these low times and remain competitive, while positioning the company to benefit as the market improves.”
Shares of Cameco are falling nearly 10% to $12.00 in after-hours trading. CCJ has a 1-year high of $13.59 and a 1-year low of $7.41. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $10.62 and its 200-day moving average is $9.50.
On the ratings front, Cameco has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on January 12, TD Securities analyst Greg Barnes upgraded CCJ to Buy. Separately, on the same day, Merrill Lynch’s Ronald Epstein upgraded the stock to Hold.
According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Greg Barnes and Ronald Epstein have a yearly average return of 2.5% and 1.0% respectively. Barnes has a success rate of 38% and is ranked #2122 out of 4349 analysts, while Epstein has a success rate of 51% and is ranked #2229.
Cameco Corp. operates underground uranium mines and produces uranium. It also provides processing services required to produce fuel for nuclear power plants, and generates clean electricity. The company operates its business through three segments: Uranium, Fuel Services and NUKEM. The Uranium segment involves the exploration for, mining, milling, purchase and sale of uranium concentrate. The Fuel Services segment involves the refining, conversion and fabrication of uranium concentrate and the purchase and sale of conversion services. The NUKEM segment provides access to traders of uranium and uranium-related products.