BUSINESS

Cameco Q3 profit soars to $211 million on higher uranium prices, volumes

10/30/2013 11:49 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
Cameco president and chief executive Tim Gitzel is headed to Japan for a week-long trip on Sunday to gather some on the ground intelligence and meet with utilities that are hoping to restart their nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The restart of the Japanese nuclear industry is edging closer to reality and will be key catalyst for the industry, Gitzel said Wednesday as Cameco reported sharply higher sales and profits in its latest quarter compared with a year ago.

Japan virtually shut down its nuclear power industry after the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami.

However, Gitzel said as of this week, five utilities have applied to restart 14 reactors.

"It is taking a bit longer I think for the NRA, the regulator, to review these units that are under review," he told a conference call with financial analysts.

"We're obviously getting closer to decisions on some of them, so we'll see."

Cameco (TSX:CCO) said it earned $211 million or 53 cents per share in the three months ended Sept. 30, up from $79 million or 20 cents per share a year earlier.

Its third-quarter adjusted earnings quadrupled to $208 million, or 53 cents per share — triple analyst estimates of 17 cents per share.

Cameco's revenue doubled to $597 million from $296 million, as the average uranium price realized by the Saskatoon-based company grew by 15 per cent and sales volume jumped 63 per cent compared with a year earlier to 8.5 million pounds.

In its revised outlook, the company said overall revenue for 2013 is expected to be up 30 per cent to 35 per cent compared with 2012. The previous estimate was growth of 25 per cent to 30 per cent.

The increased revenue forecast came despite a lowered production outlook of 23.1 million pounds of uranium, a decline of 200,000 pounds from the earlier forecast, due to the removal of Cigar Lake production from 2013 and lower expected production from its U.S. operations.

Cameco's average realized price increased to $52.59 per pound, up from $45.77 a year ago, while its average cost slipped to $26.19 per pound compared with $28.85 a year ago.

Gitzel said the company is beginning to see benefits of a restructuring done earlier this year.

"We have adapted to the current challenging market conditions and we continue to pursue a growth plan to take advantage of the opportunity we see in the long term," Gitzel said in a statement.

Uranium production in the quarter totalled 5.8 million pounds, up from 5.3 million pounds a year ago, while sales amounted to 8.5 million pounds, up from 5.2 million in the same quarter last year.

Cameco's average realized price increased to $52.59 per pound, up from $45.77 a year ago, while its average cost slipped to $26.19 per pound compared with $28.85 a year ago.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Sterck said the improved costs were a long-term positive for the company "suggesting that the cost-saving measures are paying substantial dividends."

Cameco is one of the world's largest uranium producers with mines, mills and conversion plants in Canada, the United States and abroad.

It also owns a stake in the Bruce Power nuclear power station in a partnership with TransCanada Corp., Borealis Infrastructure, the Power Workers' Union and the Society of Energy Professionals.

Last month, Cameco said its long-delayed Cigar Lake uranium mine in Saskatchewan would not begin producing until early next year because of problems during its startup.

The company had hoped to produce 300,000 pounds of milled uranium this year.

Cigar Lake has faced years of delays due to massive underground flooding at the mine.

Shares in the company closed higher by 87 cents or more than four per cent at $19.87 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.