Prime Meridians – Here’s $58 Billion In New Investment For Resources

This week in Pierce Points:

Guyana’s gold output hit a record. A new mine start-up lifted the tiny nation — just as it also announced a major oil investment. 

Denmark’s largest natgas field ran out of time. The Tyra project, North Sea will move toward decommissioning by October 2018.  

Russia hit record oil and gas production. National oil output notched a 30-year high in December, while European gas exports soared.

China launched a train to London. The 7,400-mile route is a major step for the New Silk Road trade scheme.

Vietnam’s coal buying was off the charts. Imports for 2016 came in four times higher than expected on rising domestic prices.

Here’s $58 Billion In New Investment For Resources

Big week for natural resources. Not just because of major milestones like the connection of a rail route from Shanghai to London, described above — but also because of some important data points on new fundraising in the sector.

That came from private equity specialists Preqin. Who released a report Thursday showing that 2016 was another very strong year for new resource-focused investment funds.

As the chart below from that work shows, 70 natural resource funds were launched during the past year. Raising a total of $58 billion in new capital.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-10-06-39-am Preqin’s new report shows 70 new resource funds launched in 2016, raising a total of $58 billion

As with previous years, much of this capital is earmarked for oil and gas — particularly in North American shale. All told, $51 billion of the total — or 88% — is aimed at the energy sector, with 78% of the cash sighted on assets primarily in the U.S. and Canada. See breakdown below.

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Energy was by far the biggest draw for resource private equity this past year, attracting 88% of all capital

But if you look closely at the chart above, it’s clear that funding interest was also decent outside of the energy space. Metals and mining managed to attract $2.1 billion in new private equity, while agriculture funds had a very good year — raising a total $2.8 billion. 

In fact, Preqin’s commentary in this week’s report noted that interest in mining particularly seems to be picking up. With the analysts observing that some of the largest funds currently being marketed to investors are focused on the minerals space. 

All of which shows there’s a lot of cash up for grabs — for the right projects. Which begs the question, where will it be spent?

On the energy side, there are some clear favorites right now. With plays like the Permian Basin SCOOP/STACK in Texas getting a lot of attention as a low-cost shale oil producer.

But one trend that’s also emerging is big deals in older basins. With established shales like the Haynesville recently seeing acreage bought up by private equity-backed players. 

This may represent a “second wave” of shale development. Where engineers are taking the technological leaps made in drilling tech the last few years and applying them to shales that had their drilling heyday five or ten years ago. Who knows, there may be some overlooked prizes hiding in these “tired” basins. 

While energy private equity funds have a lot of options, the mining investment sector has been faced with the opposite problem. There simply isn’t a lot to buy. 

The poster child here is X2 Resources, a mining fund started by former Xstrata head Mick Davis — which raised $5.6 billion nearly four years ago, but has failed to make a single acquisition since. 

There has been some movement lately on mid-sized deals for PE buyers. With Australian fund EMR Capital striking a deal late this past December to buy the Golden Grove copper, zinc, lead and precious metals mine in Western Australia for $210 million. 

Deals on that scale — tens to hundreds of millions of dollars — may be the sweet spot for the mining space. With most players seeming reluctant to sell bigger assets — at least any of high quality. 

Most of the big project packages that did come available during the past year came with political hair. Like Newmont’s divestiture of its Indonesia assets — which were sold to a local group and probably didn’t get much interest from PE buyers due to the risk perception of Indonesia’s mining sector today. 

Private equity is notoriously conservative in its politics. Which means any deals are likely to be in go-to jurisdictions like Australia and Canada — perhaps with some minor stepouts to places like Mexico and Chile. 

The good thing for asset sellers is that funds are coming under increasing pressure to spend their cash hordes. Or face redemptions by antsy investors — which could make 2017 ripe for more PE-backed deals than we’ve seen the past few years. 

Watch for mid-tier assets in safe countries being targeted. The Golden Grove buy from EMR Capital could be the opening salvo in a potentially profitable M&A trend.

Here’s to locking and loading,

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Dave Forest 

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