Serial capital raiser Lonmin (LSE: LMI) has given us plenty of thrills and spills over the last few months. At the beginning of the year, the platinum miner looked like a basket case, its shares still plummeting, even after restocking its coffers with the proceeds of a gargantuan 46-for-one rights issue.
The big bounce
However, Lonmin's share price staged a dramatic handbrake turn in January when the price of Platinum started to rally. By mid-March, the firm's share price was up around 300% from its January lows. At today's 116p or so, Lonmin trades around 37% lower than its March peak, but investors/traders taking the plunge and buying into Lonmin's potential recovery back in January have so far been handsomely rewarded.
What about now? Should I buy the pullback in Lonmin's share price? It's hard to make a case for an investment in Lonmin based on traditional value criteria, because if the price of platinum remains below the level the firm needs to turn a profit, value evaporates. On top of that, Lonmin has a notorious record of poor execution and financial failure, so why should I risk a longer-term investment in the firm?
If I'd benefitted from the recent 'dash-for-trash' into Lonmin, which delivered that 300% gain I mentioned earlier, I'd be off like a robber with a bag of swag by now.
Holding its own
Diversified resource producer and marketing operator Glencore(LSE: GLEN) strikes me as a better long-term bet than Lonmin. As ongoing commodity price falls bit deep, Glencore acted fast with a placing in September that helped pay down some of the firm's borrowings. The company also scaled back zinc production to preserve resources in the ground until prices improve, and plans to sell off assets during 2016.
Glencore's cash flow remains positive even at today's commodity prices and the directors say the firm's marketing operation is a low-risk defensive earnings driver. That's something the other big diversified miners on the London stock market don't usually have to help them survive difficult commodity markets.
After appearing to hit a bottom in January, Glencore's shares shot up around 116% by early March and at today's 132p have retreated about 23% from that peak. Those movements are less dramatic than Lonmin's, which shows how bad sentiment was in January for Lonmin's shares. Should I buy Glencore now? I'm not going to because commodity prices could fall a lot from here. However, if the shares get close to January's lows again, I may be tempted.
Shares in troubled Anglo American(LSE: AAL) had been falling since early 2011 before this year's rebound started in January. The firm has been restructuring on a big scale, closing down or selling operations and laying off thousands of its employees. Mining just doesn't pay when the selling price of a firm's output falls below the cost of production.
It's a measure of how bad sentiment became that the shares popped up by around 176% between January and early March. At today's 506p, Anglo American is down around 19% from that peak, but the firm's trading economics look as vulnerable as Lonmin's so I won't be getting involved.
My guess is that investors have already made the fast gains in the recent commodity bounce and there's now great risk to the downside again. However, if you're looking for firms with the potential to grow, why not look outside the cyclical mining sector? I'm keen on a company featured in a new Motley Fool report about a mid-cap enjoying strong growth that looks set to continue.
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Kevin Godbold has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.