OM Holdings (OMH)

Closing price
Weekly change $+0.135
% change +15.1%

Broker Calls

Macquarie – BUY

Euroz – BUY


Top Australian Brokers




Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

The decision by manganese business OM Holdings to cancel plans for a listing on the Hong Kong sharemarket is a positive development for the company, says Macquarie Group.

After months of a declining share price, which has seen OM Holdings (OMH) fall 44% in just four months from $1.59 to 89.5 cents, OMH was Tuesday’s biggest gainer with a massive 14% gain for the day. That single-day surge made up most of the gains for the week, with the stock ending 15.1% higher. Tuesday’s gains made it one of the most volatile stocks for the week, as listed in the column Volatile Stocks: Bulls & Bears For The Week.

OM Holdings Limited (OMH) is an investment holding company that operates commercial mining operations through its subsidiaries with operations in Australia, China and Singapore. Its subsidiaries include:

– OM Manganese (OMM), involved in the operation of a manganese mine

– OM Materials, engaged in the trading of metals and fabricated metals

– OM Materials (S), engaged in investment holding and trading of metals and ferroalloy products

– OM Materials (Qinzhou) Co Ltd, engaged in the sales and processing of ferroalloy and ores

– OM Materials (PNG) Limited, involved in the exploration and evaluation activities.

Through OMM, OMH controls 100% of the Bootu Creek Manganese Mine in the Northern Territory. Bootu Creek has the capacity to produce approximately 600,000 tons of manganese annually. OMH also holds a 11% interest in Territory Resources, which operates the Frances Creek iron ore project, also in the Northern Territory.

Three bits of news hit the market this week, pushing OMH higher. Firstly OMH has scrapped its plans to dual list on the Hong Kong stock exchange, secondly, it may split off its smelting and trading arms, and thirdly it reached record performance at its manganese mine Bootu Creek. It was the last bit of news that would have had the most impact. According to OMH, record operational performance was achieved at Bootu Creek in the first half of 2011, coupled with strong ore and alloy sales despite lower manganese prices and the strong Aussie dollar.

In a research report from February, RBS Australia had a hold on the miner, with a price target of $1.43, saying that it remains cautious on the outlook for manganese prices, with Chinese port inventories at near record levels. “In the medium term we see value in OMH as Bootu Creek ramps up production to 1Mtpa and key growth projects in South Africa and Malaysia advance,” it states in its report. “We maintain our Hold recommendation and our NPV-based target price rises to A$1.43ps (from A$1.35ps). We would look to positively change our view should the outlook for manganese prices improve.” You can read the full report here.

Euroz Securities analyst Greg Chessell is somewhat more bullish on the stock, although it must be noted that he declares a beneficial interest in the miner. He has a price target of $2.07 in his March research report. “OM Holdings offers good exposure to the Mn market through its moderately long life Bootu Ck mine,” says Chessell. “OMH’s skills in marketing of Mn and Fe ores in China, and its downstream alloying and sintering plant in China capture value throughout the entire supply chain and market insight more than typical upstream only minerals producers in our universe.” Chessell believes that growth into 2011 should come from greater manganese ore and alloy volumes in the vicinity of 15%, a maiden contribution from the Sinter plant at Qinzhou. “We expect an improved P&L and cashflow result in 2011.” writes Chessell. You can read the full report here.

According to Reuters broker consensus data, 0 brokers hold Buys on OMH, 3 have Holds, with no Sells.

Stock code: OMH
Charts: OM Holdings Limited

More news: OM Holdings Limited

Primary Health Care (PRY)

Closing price
Weekly change $-0.02
% change -0.6%

Broker Calls

Deustche Bank – BUY

Nomura Australia – BUY



Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

George Boubouras, head of investment strategy at UBS Wealth Management, says healthcare stocks belong in an investment portfolio. “As a sector, healthcare is a very important part of building a diversified equity portfolio. It’s defensive – and that’s what’s important about it,” Boubouras says. That is, because of the nature of the goods or services it provides, including hospital treatment and other medical services, the sector is relatively insulated from market volatility and other external economic forces, such as cyclical economic trends.

CMC Markets analyst Chris Weston noted that healthcare stocks enjoyed some immunity from the political turmoil in the Middle East. While major banking stocks fell on the news of civil unrest in Libya, Weston said healthcare was a “standout performer.”

While foreign wars don’t seem to trouble the healthcare sector, apparently bad weather does. Primary Health Care managing director Edmund Bateman blamed Cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods for another downgrade to its earnings guidance this week. The medical centres operator and pathology provider said the natural disasters would result in an $8 million hit to full year earnings – the third downgrade in less than a year.

Despite its recent woes, some analysts were cautiously optimistic about Primary Health Care. Nomura Australia healthcare analyst David Stanton says the worst-case scenario would slice 19 per cent from Primary’s earnings per share in fiscal 2012. In a recent report, Stanton wrote, “We believe an improvement in pathology volumes and benefits paid by Medicare through financial 2011 could lead to a re-rating for Primary.”

And Deutsche Bank has upgraded Primary Health Care to a buy, forecasting a return to growth in earnings despite reduced funding from 2013.

Steve Johnson was less bullish on Primary’s prospects even though Johnson characterised Primary as the “Rolls-Royce of the healthcare sector.” He noted that in 2010 the business generated a return on tangible assets of 40% and its pathology division returned 70% on tangible assets, however its pathology division has the Government as its main customer. “And that customer is hell bent on reducing its costs,” Johnson said. “For Primary shareholders, the traumas of the past year might only be round one.”

Based on Thomson Reuters data, analysts are divided – 30% of analysts have a buy on PRY, 35% have a hold and 35% have a sell.

Stock code: PRY
Charts: Primary Health Care Limited

More news: Primary Health Care Limited

Wesfarmers (WES)

Closing price
Weekly change $+0.27
% change +0.9%

Broker Calls

Citi – BUY, price target of $34.00

JP Morgan – BUY

Morningstar – BUY

Shadforth Financial Group – BUY

Zodiac – BUY

Wilson HTM – BUY

Armytage Enhanced Leaders Fund – BUY

PrimeValue Imputation Fund – BUY

BT Wholesale Imputation Fund – BUY

Patersons – HOLD


Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

Wesfarmers (WES) is one of Australia’s biggest and most powerful companies, employing over 200,000 people in Australia and New Zealand. The company has its fingers in every pie – supermarkets, liquor and petrol (Coles), discount department stores (Target and Kmart), chemicals and fertilisers, insurance, office supplies and stationary (Officeworks), coal mining, home improvement and hardware (Bunnings), construction. And the list goes on.

Its collection of unrelated businesses generate significant cash, although one could argue that its diversification across so many industries reduces synergies and the opportunity for vertical and horizonal integration. In 2008, Wesfarmers acquired Coles Group, which pretty well doubled the size of the business. Annual sales from retail, which includes supermarkets, discount department stores and hardware, are a mind-boggling $45 billion – making it Australia’s biggest retailer.

There’s has been much in the news recently about the challenge retailers face as consumers pare back spending in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Rising debt costs, talk of a property market bubble and a slowdown in jobs growth has investors running scared of companies that sell stuff to Aussie mums and dads.

So where does that leave Australia’s biggest and most powerful retailer Wesfarmers?

On January 24, Woolworths downgraded its 1H11 and FY11 guidance. It was the first time in 20 years. It was bad news not just for Wesfarmers – who normally meets its conservative guidance estimates without a sweat – but for other retailers who are less diversified than Wesfarmers.
Citi has increased its 12-month target price on conglomerate Wesfarmers to $34, while JPMorgan increased its earnings expectations on the basis of stronger coal price forecasts for the 2011 financial year.

James Georges of Patersons says that due to the recent natural disasters, there have been delays in company business units, including export coal sales and insurance claims. “But as a conglomerate with many business units, it has the advantage of diversification and these temporary setbacks are a bump in the road on what is a core portfolio holding,” says Georges.

Richard Batt of Shadforth Financial Group prefers Wesfarmers to Woolworths. He says the Coles turnaround is gathering pace as shown by the company’s latest third quarter results. Coles food and liquor sales were $5.852 billion, up 7.1 per cent on the previous corresponding period. For the year to date, food and liquor sales were up 6.6 per cent to $18.845 billion.

At Woolworths, Australian food and liquor sales for the third quarter were $9.157 billion, representing a 4.6 per cent statutory increase on last year’s third quarter. Batt says increasing competition from Coles has the potential to lower operating margins at Woolworths. He says Wesfarmers appeals because of its diverse businesses, which also include coal, chemicals, fertiliser, insurance and industrial and safety. “The company’s strength lies in multiple income sources,” he says. “While Woolworths has an enviable track record of well above average earnings per share and dividend growth, Wesfarmers appears to be a potentially stronger growth story.”

Morningstar’s Andrew Doherty says the success of industrial conglomerate Wesfarmers can be attributed to a diverse range of businesses with strong positions in their markets. The largest contributors are supermarket retailing, hardware and coal, he says. Diverse revenue sources smooth the earnings stream. “The greatly challenging turnaround of Coles supermarkets is well underway with margins improving substantially in recent periods,” he says. “Management is highly regarded with a keen focus on driving cash flow from each business.” The company’s eight divisions generate combined revenue of more than $50 billion a year.

Steven Hing from Zodiac points out that WES has a diverse and multiple earnings streams. The company operates Bunnings, Target, Kmart and Officeworks in the retail space. “This industrial conglomerate also has insurance, agriculture and coal and can be a strong performer in any portfolio,” Hing says. Wesfarmers reported a NPAT (net profit after tax) of $1.173 billion for the half year to December 31, 2010, a 33 per cent rise on the previous corresponding period. Diversified Woolworths also owns the Big W brand, Dan Murphy’s liquor outlets, the Dick Smith and Tandy electronics chains and hotels. The company posted a 6 per cent rise in first half 2011 NPAT to $1.16 billion on revenues of $28.3 billion. Hing says the Woolworths share price is at the lower end of this year’s trading range and the company remains a portfolio staple. “Wesfarmers and Woolworths have also infiltrated the fuel markets through Shell and Caltex respectively,” he says. “There will also be big interest in the hardware space, as Woolworths competes with the Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings.”

In more upbeat economic times, Wesfarmers would command a premium multiple due to its strong cash flows from multiple business segments. However dwindling consumer spending and the difficult acquisition of the Coles Group has left some investors on the sidelines, waiting to see how the integration pans out.

Earlier this year, Standard & Poor upgraded its long-term rating on Wesfarmers, citing its ‘largely recession-resistant’ operations of the Coles supermarkets, its improving business risk profile and disciplined capital management.
Based on Thomson Reuters data, 54% of analysts have a buy on WES, 46% have a hold.

Stock code: WES
Charts: Wesfarmers Limited

More news: Wesfarmers Limited

Santos (STO)

Closing price
Weekly change $+0.14
% change +1.0%

Broker Calls

Citi – BUY, target price $16.36

InvestorFirst – BUY

Lincoln Indicators – BUY

Goldman Sachs Resource Fund – BUY

Patersons Asset Management – BUY

Shadforths – HOLD


Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

Forecasting commodity prices can be fraught with danger at the best of times. So in uncertain times like these, there’s no shortage of differing views as to which direction a particular commodity may move. Crude oil is a case in point. While one analyst predicts price increases, another will forecast falls. And a major global event will push the crude oil price one way or the other.

From a demand and supply point of view, George Sakellariou, of Investorfirst Securities, is bullish about the crude oil price outlook, predicting a 20 per cent rise within the next year and up to 50 per cent within two years. A year ago, the spot price of West Texas Intermediate was trading at $US71 a barrel. On July 8, 2011, it was almost $US100 a barrel and in May 2011, it reached almost $US115. Sakellariou says Chinese oil demand increased by about 1.2 million barrels a day in the 2011 first quarter compared to the same quarter last year. He says India’s oil demand is also expected to grow by 200,000 barrels a day this year.

Santos is Australia’s second biggest listed oil and gas company. Recently, the company announced an oil discovery at Finucane South in the Carnarvon Basin, in offshore Western Australia and the company is considering several development options. It says the Finucane South result is on the high side of pre-drill expectations and is another valuable find following the Zola gas discovery in April, 2011. Sakellariou says Santos has started gas production at its Halyard-1 well, which is likely to meet around 10 per cent of Western Australia’s gas needs from 2012. In 2010, the company produced 49.9 million barrels of oil equivalent, and claims to have the largest Australian exploration portfolio (by area) across 146,800 square kilometres. “We view Santos as a low risk buying opportunity, with upside potential initially in the $16-to-$17 region,” he says.

Andrew Inglis of Shadforth Financial Group expects long-term growth from its proposed LNG projects, saying that the stock appears cheaper than its peers in relation to reserves. “Santos currently sells 27 per cent of its gas at export LNG oil linked prices, which are currently about double the domestic gas price…but by 2015, this proportion will increase to 70 per cent,” says Inglis. “The prospects for Santos are good after recently making a final investment decision on the Gladstone LNG project and selling down its stake to a more manageable level.”

Michael Feller, of Lincoln Indicators notes that STO was able to lift 2010 revenue on the back of declining production . Production of 49.9 million barrels of oil equivalent in 2010 represented an 8 per cent fall on 2009, but revenue rose 2 per cent to $A2.228 billion. The company says the average realised oil price in 2010 was $A87.35, up 11 per cent on 2009. Feller says Santos is trading at a higher than average price/earnings multiple, but its earnings per share are reportedly forecast to grow 30 per cent in calendar year 2010 and between 8 and 9 per cent in 2011. Furthermore, he says, the company is about 11 per cent undervalued based on the median price target of 14 brokers who cover the stock. “While floods, delays and the national skills shortage have hampered development projects, from a big picture perspective, this asset-maker remains undervalued by the market,” he says. “Santos is in strong financial health, offers attractive assets and a number of projects aren’t priced in.”

Patersons Asset Management started an Australian Resources Opportunities Fund, with the fund heavily invested in STO. Goldman Sachs Resources Fund is overweight STO.

Based on Thomson Reuters data, 73% of analysts have a buy on STO and 27% have a hold. There are no sells.

Stock code: STO
Charts: Santos Limited

More news: Santos Limited

Downer EDI (DOW)

Closing price
Weekly change $0.09
% change 2.4%

Broker Calls


Zodiac Securities – BUY

Alto Capital – BUY

Paterson Securities – SELL


Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

For shareholders of Downer EDI (DOW), the last 12 months have been challenging. After hitting a high of $5.30 in November 2010, shares of DOW have fallen 27 per cent to be sitting at $3.85, up 10% from a 12-month low hit in May.

Shortly after news that the company was taking a $A250 million provision of due delays in delivering trains for Sydney’s suburban rail network, ligation funder IMF announced that a shareholder class action suit has been launched against the company. CEO Grant Fenn has a tough road ahead to convince shareholders that the future will be rosier.

Downer EDI consists of a group of companies that specialise in the engineering, construction, telecommunications, mining and resource sectors in the Asia Pacific region. Revenue for 2010 was $6.1 billion, operating cash flow of $377 million and liquidity in excess of $800 million ($385 million in cash plus current credit facilities). The Downer Group includes consulting, engineering, mining, rail and works – the latter providing services for development and maintenance of infrastructure.

The Waratah project in New South Wales has cost DOW dearly through delays in delivering trains and cost blowouts, although it has just announced that it has completed its first set in its Waratah project for RailCorp.

It must be noted that Downer EDI has a strong underlying businesses outside of the Waratah rail project, revenue over $6 billion dollars, $385 million in cash and over $800 million in liquidity. That being said, at its current share price brokers are thinking that the risks to the downside appear limited.

DOW recently raised $250 million to shore up its balance sheet and is disputing $154 million in penalties for delays. Steven Hing of Zodiac Securities believes there’s a chance of success. Irrespective of the outcome, Hing says Downer, as an engineering services company, offers viable businesses that should benefit from the mining boom. Hing says this company is resilient as shown by its strong underlying businesses meeting challenges in the past. Bluntly, he says: “This company has other businesses besides trains.” On April 4, 2011, Downer announced it had been awarded a $60 million contract by OneSteel Manufacturing to construct an iron ore beneficiation plant in Iron Baron, South Australia. On March 31, 2011, Downer announced it had secured contract revenue worth $140 million involving road design and maintenance.

Analyst Carey Smith of Alto Capital, who currently has a Buy recommendation on Downer EDI believes the markets have overreacted to a short-term issue. He thinks the group currently offers top value for the longer-term investor.
Although Downer EDI continues to struggle with the Waratah project, the company’s strong balance sheet, ample liquidity and strong underlying business suggests that the market may be over-reacting. As Baron Rothschild, said “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets”.

Based on Thomson Reuters data, 33% of analysts have a buy on DOW, 50% have a hold and 17% have a sell.

Stock code: DOW
Charts: Downer EDI Limited

More news: Downer EDI Limited

Lynas Corporation (LYC)

Closing price
Weekly change $+0.26
% change +14.9%

Broker Calls

Deutsche – BUY

Patersons – BUY

Austock – HOLD


Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

After falling 15% in a day last Friday on a string of bad news, rare earths supplier Lynas (LYC) made up most of that lost ground this week, finishing the week 14.9% stronger.

When it comes to commodity investing, most of us are familiar with the different types of commodities that we can invest in. Popular choices are energy commodities, such as oil and natural gas, or the agricultural or “soft” commodities like corn, wheat and cotton. Metals are also popular investments, and many people use gold as a type of currency in times of economic uncertainty. Another group of less recognisable metals has also joined the investment conversation – the rare earth metals (REM).

The rare earths story embraces potentially big windfalls laced with plenty of risk. Listed Australian rare earths companies aren’t for conservative investors, as explorers without earnings dominate the landscape. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop share prices rockting as the market looks forward, factoring in what tomorrow can potentially bring in an industry dominated by China.

The share price of Lynas Corporation, which is among the best known Australian rare earths companies, soared from 37.5 cents in early May last year to a 12-month high of $2.70 on April 12, 2011. However shares have been steadily falling and then plunged last week as the company denied reports that a planned Malaysian plant could be delayed by one to two years.
The denials followed a favourable report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the company’s controversial proposed rare earth refinery in Kuantan after public protests had been growing about the risk of radioactive waste from the planned plant in eastern Malaysia. The IAEA report found that the plant was safe and fully compliant with international standards, however it said that Lynas should provide a long-term waste management plan and improve its communication about the plant with the Malaysian community before a pre-operational licence was granted.

Lynas released two statements on Friday, denying media reports that the project would be delayed and that engineers were worried about construction problems at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant. “We have received confirmation from the Malaysian government that no spokesperson for the government stated a one to two-year delay as quoted by some media articles,” Lynas said in a statement on Friday. “Neither Lynas, nor our construction team, are facing any unusual construction difficulties. We acknowledge that not enough has been done to engage with the community and we will correct that now.”

Despite Lynas’s statement, the media reports spooked investors last week, sending the company’s share price tumbling.

Mine Life senior resources analyst Gavin Wendt resources consultant said the market was surprised and concerned about the prospect of delays in Malaysia. “When you’re talking about environmental considerations and local populations, these things can drag on,” Wendt said. “The market wasn’t expecting this delay, that’s why the market is right to be concerned about the timing.”

Friday saw some better news hit the market, with Lynas announcing that it had teamed up with German giant Siemens to produce magnets for use at wind farms. The two companies have signed a letter of intent to establish a joint venture to produce neodymium-based rare earths magnets for Siemens’ energy-efficient drive applications and wind-turbine generators.

Siemens views the joint venture as providing security of supply for the rare earths they require. “This planned joint venture would be an important strategic pillar for us to pursue a long-term and stable supply with high performance magnets,” said Ralf-Michael Franke, chief executive at Siemens drive technologies division. The companies have not said if the magnets would be produced at Lynas’s controversial proposed rare earth refinery in Malaysia.

Patersons Securities analyst James Georges has buy on the rare earths supplier. “Lynas will be the next rare earths oxide supplier outside China…record rare earths prices add to this company’s appeal,” says Georges. He notes that the company is fully funded to achieve forthcoming milestones and it has $220 million in cash plus further funds raised through a combination of issuing equity and debt. “Our valuation has risen and we have a price target of $2.95 a share.”

Deutsche Bank also has a buy on LYC, albeit with a lower price target of $2.60.

Goldman Sachs recently sold its LYC holdings from its Resources Fund, saying that LYC was sold out of the portfolio after a period of strong performance driven by the significant rise in the price of rare earth elements.

You can read the latest half-year report by clicking here.

Stock code: LYC

Charts: Lynas Rare Earths Limited

More news: Lynas Rare Earths Limited

Investor Centre: Lynas Rare Earths Limited

Qantas Airways (QAN)

Closing price
Weekly change +$0.15
% change +8.1%

Broker Calls

Credit Suisse – BUY


Patersons – BUY

Lincoln – BUY

Patersons – BUY

Zodiac Securities – HOLD

Austock – SELL


Chart: Share price over the year to 08/07/2011 versus ASX200 (XJO)

Airlines are tough businesses to run at the best of times, but Qantas remains one of the most resilient and profitable in the world. While other airlines across the world failed in response to the global financial crisis and other catastrophes, Qantas continues to overcome challenges. It booked an underlying profit before tax of $417 million for the half year to December 31, 2010, with revenue of $7.6 billion.

While the market clearly presents value opportunities, Kien Trinh quant analyst with Patersons Securities says investors are reluctant to commit until myriad short-term, structural and cyclical issues play out. He says oversold stocks like Qantas can reap significant short-term opportunities if bought at the right time.

And now may be just the right time, with CASA grounding a rival – Tiger Airways – while another is on the ropes (Virgin). Monday’s news that Tiger Airways would be grounded was good news for Qantas, with the stock up 8.1% over the week.

Analysts say the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) suspension of Tiger Airways has put the future of the airline’s four-year-old Australian operations in doubt. CASA decided to take Tiger’s 10 Airbus A320 aircraft out of Australian skies on Friday night (AEST) as it believed the airline posed a “serious and imminent risk to air safety” if it continued flying. It was the first time the air safety regulator had suspended an entire airline’s operations, with the only comparable action the grounding of Ansett’s Boeing 767 fleet in 2001. Ansett collapsed six months later.

The carbon tax is another issue facing airlines – both VBA and QAN will be hit hard by the tax, with the Labour/Greens government’s proposed two-stage plan for a carbon price mechanism due to commence 1 July 2012. The plan is for a flat price to apply for three to five years, before moving to a market traded price. It’s not clear whether or when aviation will receive any compensation. But assuming it doesn’t, Elaine Prior analyst with Citi estimates Qantas – which also has non-Australian related emissions – to incur a carbon cost of around A$74 million or $12.9 million net profit in full year 2013, rising to around A$150 million in full year 2020 or $26.2 million net profit.

Even after passing on around 75 per cent of the carbon cost to fare-paying customers, JP Morgan expects Qantas to incur a carbon price EPS hit of -12% over from 2013-2015.

Meanwhile Steven Hing of Zodiac Securities has a buy on the flying kangaroo. The share price retreat to a 12-month low was way over done, according to Steven Hing, general manager of Zodiac Securities. It has recovered marginally, but Hing believes there’s more upside ahead as it was trading at almost $2.90 in November, 2010. Hing says investors lost confidence in Qantas stock after several aircraft maintenance issues, including engine failure on a A380 plane from Singapore. However, Hing says passenger numbers have been improving and holding despite natural disasters and global hot spots. He says Qantas recently cut costs and is able to cover rising crude oil by lifting its fuel levy. In any case, Hing says the company has mostly hedged its 2010/11 fuel costs.

Based on Thomson Reuters data, 93% of analysts have a buy on QAN, 7% have a hold.

Stock code: QAN
Charts: Qantas Airways Limited

More news: Qantas Airways Limited

Investor Centre: Qantas Airways Limited

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