Podcast: Commodity super cycle?

In JSE Direct, Latest by Simon Brown

Simon Shares

Interesting titbit from TigerBrands (JSE code: TBS) update “It is too early to conclude whether the lower consumer demand levels evident in the month of January reflect an even more challenging environment than what was experienced over the past year.”

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Commodity super cycle?

BHP* (JSE code: BHP) results were good, the cash flow was excellent with the dividend up 55% and payout ratio 85%.
This is the benefit of commodity prices at higher levels but also due to low debt levels an almost zero capex requirements from most commodity miners.

This raises three questions;

Are we in a commodity super cycle?

I think not, sure prices are at best levels in about five years. But that’s off a low base rather than a super cycle. sure demand has picked up and global infrastructure spend is rising in response to the pandemic. But we don’t have China growing at almost 10% a year sucking in almost all of the world’s commodities as we did back in the early 2000s.

Last time we ha a commodity super cycle it died the day after a global bank did a 100-page report on how it would last another decade.

Will commodity prices go higher?

They can but mostly I think they won’t. Platinum could hit US$2,000 but for the rest our best bet is they stay around current levels. Oil, who knows. Will the frackers return in mass with higher prices? Demand will certainly continue to increase as we get out of the pandemic, but how long can Opec+ keep their collective foot on the production brake pedal? I think not long as they’ll need the money.

How long will it last?

The elevated prices can probably last 3-5 years at best and this will see cash flows at high levels, especially as debt gets paid own. But the miners need to find new mines to mine or they run out of product to sell (as we’re seeing with Pan African Resources* (JSE code: PAN) and their new mines / operations. So at some point, we’ll start seeing green and brownfield capex projects coming back and that’ll need some cash so dividends will start to drop.

My big fear is mega deals. These always destroy value albeit the miners look at them as an easy way to increased supply for themselves. If a stock I hold gets an offer, I’ll take the money and run. If a stock I own makes an offer, I’ll take the money and run.

* I hold ungeared positions.


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