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The tangled web behind URU Metals

By Gary Newman | Friday 7 April 2017

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from ShareProphets). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

URU Metals (URU) seems to have this RNS lark cracked – if the market hates the first one that you issue, then just word it slightly differently and release news about the same project again the following day. You really couldn’t make it up!

This is a company that I have watched with interest as it has been pumped to high heaven by all and sundry, but it came down to earth with a bit of a bump when it released an update on its Zebediela nickel project in South Africa. The RNS mentioned that it was carrying out acid leaching on existing drill cores and that once that had been completed it would carry out a revised drilling programme. The market hated the update and at one point the share price was down by over 30%.

That drop was partly due to high expectations before this news came as the company had announced a couple of days prior that it had set up an investor presentation at short notice, so many – myself included – were expecting some major news to warrant that.

The company has now had another go by releasing the same news, but this time stating that results are expected within ten days, and so far it seems to have gone down better with investors as the shares have bounced back a little.

The company talks about the potential size of the project and resource it contains – a preliminary economic assessment in 2012 showed inferred and indicated resources of 1.5 billion tonnes and a net present value of over $300 million, yet despite having the licence for several years now not a lot of progress has been made. This despite nickel prices having been much higher during that period – at the time it acquired the project from Umnex Minerals nickel was trading at over $8/lb compared to under $5/lb currently.

The company also has other projects, but given that none of them are likely to be producing for a number of years – if ever – there is little point in spending too much time going into possible values of resources in the ground, when so little is known at this point.

What I find more interesting is the way that the share price has moved since the placing at 0.45p in early January, when 171 million odd shares were issued to raise £770,000, and then just a month later, with no real news at all in-between other than talk of assessing lithium opportunities, a further £535,000 was raised at 4.5p.

A fair chunk of these shares were placed with an existing large shareholder, Niketo, which is also a related party, plus with directors of URU, including CEO John Zorbas, who bought 1.1 million or so.

Now you can’t help but wonder what is going on in the background and whether the main purpose of that placing was to push the share price higher – given that the highest it has reached in open trading is 4.38p (subsequent to the placing), and it closed at 2.5p the previous day to the premium placing. Only 11.8 million shares were issued and typical daily volumes have often been well in excess of that, so it wouldn’t have been that hard to accumulate that number of shares on the open market at a much lower price.

One thing it did seem to facilitate was the acquisition of an 8.79% stake in Management Resource Solutions (MRS), which is currently suspended, and that was done by issuing 25 million shares at 4.5p, and allowed a transaction value of over £1.1 million to be recorded.

It is also worth taking a closer look at Niketo – which is listed in Canada as NWT Uranium, the president of which just so happens to be John Zorbas, who served as managing director of the company up until December 2016.

It is interesting to note that NWT - now an investing company rather than a miner, and with no source of revenue - had net liabilities of over $2.5 million (monetary liabilities of over $3.5 million) at the end of 2016, and its largest asset was its investment in URU, so I would certainly argue that the £90,000 that it spent buying more shares at 4.5p – helping to cause the large share price rise – was certainly worthwhile for the company given the effect that will have had on the solvency of its balance sheet! Its 16.1% shareholding is now valued at £3.2 million, even after the pullback in share price.

The NWT interims were filed after that share purchase at 4.5p and there have been no placings since then, so I have to wonder why it spent pretty much the last of its cash – cash stood at $144,000 as at the end of 2016 – buying into URU via a premium placing? Especially given those accounts included a going concern note stating that it may not have the money to meet its current liabilities when they become due.

This would tend to suggest to me that at some point NWT is going to have to start dumping its holding to remain solvent – assuming that it hasn’t been doing so already and ‘forgetting’ to report it. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye in my opinion, and there isn’t space to cover every facet in detail, but I would certainly be very cautious of investing in URU and place it firmly in the ‘bargepole’ category.

In the meantime the share price is likely to remain volatile and a few traders might make some money on the spikes and troughs from its current level of 2.9p to buy.

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