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Prospect of United Tractors After Acquired Martabe Gold Mine

On December 4, 2018, PT United Tractors, Tbk (UNTR) announced that the company had completed the process of acquiring 95% stake of PT Agincourt Resources (PTAR), the owner of the Martabe Gold Mine in South Tapanuli, North Sumatra Province. Thus, UNTR now has five business segments ie the distribution of heavy equipments, coal mining, coal mining services, construction, and gold mining, the last two segments have only joined the group in recent years. Interestingly, in contrast to the contribution of the constructions which is still very small, the gold mining successfully contributed Rp665 billion in net income before tax in the first quarter of 2019, or 16% of the company's total pre-tax income.

Then what is this Martabe Gold Mine? How big is the gold reserve? And with this acquisition, will the performance of UNTR in the future no longer depend on fluctuations in coal prices?

Profile of the Martabe Gold Mine

If we talk about gold mining, then most people only know Freeport in Papua, and Newmont in East Nusa Tenggara, because indeed these two are the largest gold mines in Indonesia. In fact, with gold reserves of 30.2 million ounces (oz), and gold sales volume of 2.4 million oz in 2018, the Grasberg Gold Mine of PT Freeport Indonesia could be named as the largest gold mine in the world.

But you probably didn’t know that Sumatra Island also has large gold reserves in Martabe, precisely at 4.5 million oz at the end of 2018, which could increase to 8.1 million oz as the exploration process continues. With a sales volume of 97 thousand oz by first quarter of 2019, or 388 thousand oz if annualized, then Martabe is far behind Grasberg, but remember that Martabe has only began its production in 2012, aka very recently compared to Grasberg which has been opened since the 1960s, so its long-term potential is still wide open. And maybe because of that, besides paying US$ 918 million for the acquisition price (to the previous PTAR owner, Agincourt Resources Pte Ltd), UNTR also injected working capital of US$ 325 million in the form of loans to PTAR, so that PTAR could accelerate the exploration work to find new reserves, while increasing production volumes. If you look at the character of Astra Group (the owner of UNTR) who always move quickly after they enter a certain industry, for example when they enter the property industry in 2016 and suddenly today they have Astra Tower at General Soedirman Street, Jakarta, then PTAR would not take too long to use their additional capital.

Unfortunately, UNTR’ management has not yet talked about the long-term prospects related to their new 'toys', but here are two important facts regarding their acquisition of Martabe. First, UNTR spent a total of US$ 1.24 billion to acquire and provide capital for PTAR, of which around US$ 900 million came from bank loans, but the annual interest was very low at only LIBOR + 2%. As a result, UNTR's revenue from its gold mining business is relatively ‘clean’ from interest expense, that from revenue of Rp1.9 trillion in the first quarter of 2019, obtained a pre-tax profit of Rp665 billion. This 35% profit margin is far greater than the company's core business margin, ie the distribution of heavy equipment and mining services.

And second, PTAR booked a net profit of US$ 51.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, or US$ 207 million if annualized, which rose from US$ 151 million in 2017, and US$ 121 million in 2016 (the profits increased every year as production volume increases). With the acquisition price of US$ 918 million, and assuming that PTAR's profits will continue to grow with the same growth rate since 2016, UNTR will break even in about 3 – 4 years, could be faster if PTAR successfully accelerates the increase in its volume production. In other words, the acquisition price was fairly reasonable, or even undervalued.

Then, in order to reduce dependence on coal businesses, UNTR has enter construction business since 2015 by acquiring PT Acset Indonusa, Tbk (ACST), acquiring a gold mining company PT Sumbawa Jutaraya, and in 2017 start building a power plant in Jepara, Central Java Province. But currently the power plant is still under construction (it will be completed in 2021), the gold mine of PT Sumbawa is still in exploration stage, and ACST even losing money. So with Martabe Gold Mine as a new asset of the company, this time UNTR’s shareholders can hope that the company's performance will no longer be too dependent on the ups and downs of international coal prices.

In conclusion, UNTR in 2019 has just obtained a new source of income, at a cheap acquisition price, and can still be developed so it will generate even larger income in the future. It might also be noted that just like small investors often find it difficult to find good stocks at cheap prices, it is not that easy for large group like Astra to find good investment opportunities like this Martabe. And although contribution of net income from PTAR has not yet significant, which is still less than 20% of overall UNTR profit, but considering that PTAR is still in the momentum of production growth, and the price of gold itself is much more stable than coal prices (US$ 1,200 - 1,300 per oz in the last five years, and in the long run, the gold price is always rising), there is an opportunity that in the next few years UNTR will be better known as a gold mining company rather than coal. And fortunately we are talking about the Astra Group here, not Bakrie or the like. So if later UNTR actually acquire big profit from its gold mine, then the profit will be reflected in its financial statements, the company will pay more dividends to investors, and the stock will rise.

It's time to buy UNTR?

Okay Sir, so are you saying that we could buy UNTR just now? Well, of course there are still a few more things to consider. First, for now UNTR is still a coal-related company, where the company still needs time to develop the Martabe Mine until its contribution becomes really significant. In this case I remember the oil company, Medco Energi Internasional (MEDC), which in 2016 successfully acquired Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NNT), so there was a hope that the company in the future will no longer depend on its oil business. But somehow, in Medco's hands, NNT only sells 70,900 oz of gold throughout 2018, aka much smaller than Martabe, even though this NNT is bigger. And as a result MEDC's performance is still depends on its oil business.

So the worst case scenario is, after a few years, the gold produced from the Martabe Mine remains unable to shift the coal as the main source of income for UNTR. Actually, this scenario is still acceptable, where it means that UNTR will still be a coal company as it is today, and currently UNTR can still be regarded as one of the best coal companies in Indonesia, and UNTR also does not have to risk to hold a debt restructuring or the like. Because after the acquisition of Martabe, the debt to equity ratio was still conservative at level 1.0 times. But the point is, UNTR cannot yet be called a gold mining company because coal-related business is still the biggest parts of its portfolio, just like Berkshire Hathaway cannot be called a technology company just because Warren Buffett bought the share of Apple and Amazon, because its biggest portfolio is still in consumer, banking and insurance.

And secondly, with PBV 1.7 times at the price of 26,200, the stock valuation is not cheap enough, the price could survive at that level because UNTR’s latest financial performance is still good (ROE above 20%). However, if the pressure on other coal stocks in the past few months continues (because the net income of PTBA et al have all dropped in the first quarter of 2019), then UNTR could go down further to probably Rp23,000 per share.

In conclusion, even though UNTR offers attractive prospects, the best time to buy is not now, just wait and see for the development in the next several months. Actually, regarding the prospect of this gold mine, besides the story of ‘Medco fail’ above, or J Resources Asia Pacific (PSAB) and Aneka Tambang (ANTM), which only booked very small profit (or even loss), there is also a successful gold mining company with abundant gold production and large net income, namely Merdeka Copper Gold (MDKA). But unfortunately the shares have gone up a lot already, and the stock valuation is quite premium, and you would probably cannot buy it because the trading volume are not liquid. Thus in the end, related to the prospect of this gold rush story, UNTR is still the best choice, just a matter of timing.

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