Potential central to Territory explorer's success

APRIL 2, 2012

MARKET forums like HotCopper are buzzing, and Central Petroleum's share price has doubled in the past month.

Its shares have hit double figures, which is impressive given that it has just over a billion of them on issue. At 10¢ it now has a market cap of $115 million. Radar mentioned Central Petroleum (ASX: CTP) last July when they were a mere 6¢. It holds exploration leases over almost 300,000 square kilometres, mainly in the Northern Territory - an area about 20 per cent larger than the United Kingdom.

CTP issues about two announcements a day and is always raising capital. It hasn't got any producing assets, but it has all this "potential" that is clearly exciting some investors.

Some circumspection needs to enter the equation.

What's new? The board tried to boot the chief executive, John Heugh, and has failed. He is taking the company to the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

The company has also responded to "certain public statements" about the replacement of the board and even named the speculated replacements.

Board acrimony can destroy shareholder value faster than the share price has climbed in March.

The biggest factor moving the stock is its March 27 update that it's looking for "farm-in" opportunities, which means CTP wants partners with deep pockets to develop and operate its assets. This is sensible for a company that has only $11 million in cash.

It is also a speculator's dream. It could be anyone, or just as easily, it could be no one. Just about all the big gorillas, such as Santos, BHP Billiton and ConocoPhillips, are drilling nearby.

To top it all off, the private client broker Paterson Securities released a report with a 20¢ price target. This should be treated with scepticism because CTP is nowhere near to producing cash. It doesn't even have an official resource estimate. It does have potential though.


MIRABELA, Mirabela on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

The answer isn't Mirabela Nickel (ASX: MBN), whose shares have fallen 37 per cent in the past month and almost 70 per cent in the past year.

It is battling a nickel price that has dropped about 40 per cent over the past year to $US7.90 ($A7.63) a pound, and increasing costs at its Santa Rita mine in Brazil.

Its cash costs are $US7 a pound, so it's barely profitable.

The fairest in nickel land could well be Western Areas (ASX: WSA), which many fund managers are switching into, from what we hear.

Its shares have fallen about 17 per cent in the past 12 months. Its resilience is because it's a high-grade/low-cost production story. Western Areas has an average of 5 per cent nickel in every tonne of ore it mines, compared with Mirabela, which has 0.55 per cent. Western Areas' cost of production is about $US3 a pound.

SOURCE: Fairfax: 2 April, 2012

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