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By Michael Montgomery—Exclusive to Moly Investing News The steel market over the last year has seen its share of volatility. Major iron ore companies such as BHP Biliton, Vale, and Rio Tinto are looking to capitalize on rebounding steel demand in the wake of the global economic downturn. Most of the growth is coming from …

By Michael Montgomery—Exclusive to Moly Investing News

The steel market over the last year has seen its share of volatility. Major iron ore companies such as BHP Biliton, Vale, and Rio Tinto are looking to capitalize on rebounding steel demand in the wake of the global economic downturn. Most of the growth is coming from China, the world’s largest steel manufacturer, as well as the subcontinent of India, for which new reports show double digit increases in demand for steel. The major ore producers have raised spot prices for iron 100 percent in some cases.

This increase in costs may be the reason some Chinese firms are rushing to fund, and buy out smaller Molybdenum producers around the world. Lowering their overall production cost by vertically integrating all of the means of producing steel. The major iron ore companies are too big to buy out, or to influence any direct control over.

The control of the molybdenum market is the next logical step for China. A recent report on China Molybdenum Co Ltd. [HKG: 3993] shows the power that the nation has over the world market. “Overall molybdenum inventory in China now exceeds 45,000 mt, accounting for 22 percent of the world’s total molybdenum inventory,” according to a report from Steel Orbis.

This is no small number, and after the developments of the last few weeks, seeing Chinese firms funding multiple moly producers’ new operations, the total percentage of inventory for the nation is much higher. A Chinese firm, Sichuan Halong Group is now the controlling shareholder of Moly Mines Ltd. [TSX: MOL] after a $140 million financing deal. “In March, Hanlong also announced a significant investment and strategic relationship with US-based General Moly (GMO). The reserves of molybdenum involved in the two deals reached about 30 percent of the total amount in the world,” reported the Global Times.

While having that much control can scare most investors, it is a good sign that future prospects for steel demand, and therefore molybdenum is strong. New reports from major Indian steel producers confirm that the Asian economy is roaring back. “Top Indian steel makers including Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Tata Steel and Essar saw up to 15% increase in sales in March from one year ago owing to robust demand from automobile and infrastructure sectors,” according to a report from Pramugdha Mamgain, of the Economic Times.

Not all the good news for moly and steel is coming from Asia. European producer OAO Novolipetsk Steel, Russia’s largest steel producer, is ramping up production to meet the rising demand from Europe after a dismal 2009. “The Russian steelmaker increased slab sales to Europe to half of the total at the start of 2010, from 35 percent in the fourth quarter, as Europeans restocked,” reports  Ilya Khrennikov of Bloomberg.

This comes after steel sales in the USA and Europe fell by 42 percent and 35 percent respectively in 2009. The increased demand for steel worldwide will benefit moly producers as the mineral is a vital component for strengthening alloys.

Market Wrap-Up

With increased demand for Mo, and increasing prices, moly miners stand to benefit. Included below are small cap companies that have received recent funding from Chinese firms, or have had recent substantial developments.

General Moly [AMEX: GMO]

April 7 2010 share price: 3.60    April 7 2009: 1.17

The Chinese firm, Sichuan Halong Group, has agreed to purchase a 25 percent equity stake in company for $80 million and to secure other funding to help finance a Nevada molybdenum mine.

International PBX Ventures Ltd. [TSX.V: PBX]

April 7 2010 share price: 0.205 April 7 2009: 0.04

International PBX Ventures Ltd. announced it has begun drilling on its wholly-owned Sulfato copper zone project in Northern Chile. The mine is estimated to be “capable of producing approximately 785.4 million lbs of copper and 166.4 million lbs of molybdenum over a 24-year mine life at an operating cost of $7.15 US$/t.”  See Press Release.

Moly Mines [TSX: MOL]

April 7 2010 share price: 0.750 April 7 2009: 0.24

The company received $140 million from Sichuan Halong Group, Halong now a 51 percent shareholder. The funding is for the development of the company’s Spinifex Ridge Molybdenum project. Stock price for the company is up from 0.24, a 300 percent gain from a year ago.

Quadra Mining Ltd. [TSX: QUA]

April 7 2010 share price:16.38 April 7 2009: 5.53

State Grid,  China’s prime power utility, entered into a joint-venture agreement on the miner’s Chilean copper project. Under the deal, State grid will provide $900 million towards Quadra’s operations in Chile.

Taseko Mines Ltd. [TSX: TKO]

April 7 2010 share price: 5.57 April 7 2009: 1.69

Taseko Mines reports that production of copper for 2010 should be more than 80 million pounds, up from 70.3 million pounds of copper and 600,000 pounds of moly in 2009. “The company’s fourth-quarter revenue stood at C$56 million, up sequentially from C$40.1 million, helped by increased concentrate sales and higher average realized copper prices. It posted a quarterly operating profit of C$15.6 million, compared with C$9.4 million in the third quarter.” Reuters.

Thompson Creek Metals Company Ltd. [NYSE:TC]

April 7 2010 share price: 14.09 April 7 2009: 4.14

Thompson Creek Metals has announced that it is seeking $1 billion for new acquisitions to expand output in response to growing demand. The company, which operates two North American mines, is seeking new opportunities in South America and Australia. “We are looking at things that are in production to things that are very greenfield and anywhere in between … Not only do we have the cash in hand, but we have $13 million in debt, so we have a significant amount of debt capacity if we wanted to debt- finance the acquisition,” stated Kevin Loughrey, CEO of Thompson Creek.

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