Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One To Watch

TROX manufactures titanium dioxide and is one of five companies with the technology to produce it via the chloride method, which is cost-efficient and environmentally friendly. Tronox recently announced a merger with a division of Exxaro Resources [EXX.South Africa], a South African company that mines titanium dioxide feedstock. This will make Tronox vertically integrated. The acquired business has a 1.5-million-ton stockpile of ilmenite, the feedstock, which is in tight supply.

Tronox hit a high of $165 last year. Shares have backed off due to market turmoil, mixed feelings about the acquisition and uncertainty regarding the economy. Most important, sales of titanium dioxide were slow in the fourth quarter. Investors didn't understand this was a seasonally weak period. Insiders have been buying shares at Kronos Worldwide [KRO], a Tronox competitor, which adds credence to the buy idea on TROX.

Tronox came out of bankruptcy court last year. Why did the company go broke?

It was spun out of Kerr-McGee with a lot of environmental liabilities and debt. Then the financial crisis hit. But there have been positive surprises since 2011. Tronox has tax-loss carryforwards that are worth about $30 a share. And the company has incredible earnings power, in the range of $20 to $30 a share. Analyst had guessed it was around $12 a share. Some think it is overearning because of the tight supply situation, but even using an 11 multiple of the prior estimate and adding the tax assets and the next 12 months' free cash flow gets you a target price of more than $190 a share. If earnings continue to grow at the current rate, they might be sustainably closer to $20, which gives you a $250 stock.