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Big Picture - Mwana Africa poised for growth in Zimbabwe and DRC

The steady tick up of the share price of Mwana Africa over the last six months mirrors a stream of steady positive news flow reported by the company this year.
Big Picture - Mwana Africa poised for growth in Zimbabwe and DRC

The steady tick up of the share price of Mwana Africa (LON:MWA) over the last six months mirrors a stream of steady positive news flow reported by the company this year.

The firm, which operates the Freda Rebecca gold mine and the Trojan nickel mine in Zimbabwe, reckons it has now put certain technical difficulties last year behind it and established a platform for solid growth.

Mwana, with a market cap of £27.68mln, owns 76.3% of subsidiary Bindura Nickel Corporation, which owns the Trojan mine.

Chief executive Kalaa Mpinga said in a recent interview with Proactive: "I think investors can look forward to a stable, producing company."

Perhaps the most striking indication of the firm's future intent came last week, when the firm signalled it wants to re-start the smelter at the Trojan mine, which would lower transport costs and give higher revenues.

The nickel mine is already producing a stable 700 tonnes a month and the firm hopes to increase annual production to 9,000 tonnes with further operating efficiencies. One such improvement would be the smelter re-start.

The decision comes amid a well-publicised improving market for nickel - the production of which is set to be a main driver for growth at Mwana.

The metal's price hike has been sparked by an outright ban on exports by Indonesia, which accounted for around a fifth of global supply, and most analysts believe the firm prices are here to stay for the longer term.

Nickel stands now at US$18,315 per tonne - up from just under $14,000 at the beginning of 2014.

Meanwhile, a confident quarterly update in April from Mwana, which also has diamond and copper assets, revealed improved performance in all areas.

At Freda Rebecca, output for the first three months of the year was up 2% at 13,380 ounces of gold, while the average grade increased to 1.91 grams per tonne (g/t). Cash operating costs fell to US$1,053 an ounce from US$1,066.

Total gold produced in the 12 months to end March from Freda Rebecca was 58,704 ounces.

At Bindura nickel, some 2,207 tonnes of nickel concentrate were sold in the quarter – representing a 9.5% increase on the previous quarter and the price achieved rose 1.5% to US$14,075 a tonne.

In diamonds in South Africa, and, in particular, the Marsfontein slimes dam at the Klipspringer Mine, Mwana's production doubled in the three months to 12,383 carats which were sold at an average US$21 a carat.

Back to nickel and the Bindura smelter restart plan requires an initial capex spend of US$36mln according to an independent report, with the plant potentially generating cash by 2016.

Mwana has said it sees half this cost coming from debt finance, with the remainder from existing cash flow and cash balances.

Indeed, the company says it has now reached the stage where it can fund efficiency measures by its own internal cash.

"The company is now generating enough cash to look after its own needs for growth and for the first time we will be able to use our own balance sheet and put some debt into some of those assets," Mpinga told Proactive.

He said the fate of the company had closely followed the development of Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"As the economies of those countries have improved so have our fortunes. We have solid assets in those countries and we have successfully been able to maintain and protect them and we have now put them back into a position where they can generate cash and profits for the shareholders."

Mwana shares have ticked up around 63% since the beginning of the year to where they are now at 2.05p.

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Asa Resource Group PLC Timeline

June 26 2015

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