North American Palladium's CEO Discusses Q2 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

North American Palladium Ltd. (PAL)

Q2 2012 Earnings Call

August 9, 2012 9:00 AM ET

Executives

Camilla Bartosiewicz – Director, IR and Corporate Communication

Bill Biggar – President and CEO

Jeff Swinoga – VP- Finance and CFO

Greg Struble – VP and COO

Analysts

Sam Crittenden – RBC

Leon Esterhuizen – CIBC

Heiko Ihle – Euro Pacific Capital

Andrew Mikitchook – GMP

George Topping – Stifel

Nathan Littlewood – Credit Suisse

Annie Zhang – Octagon Capital

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to North American Palladium’s 2012 Second Quarter Results Conference Call and Webcast being held on Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 9 AM Eastern time.

I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Camilla Bartosiewicz, Director of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. Please go ahead, Camilla.

Camilla Bartosiewicz

Thank you, operator. Good morning everyone and welcome to North American Palladium’s 2012 second quarter results conference call and webcast. The company’s financial results were issued yesterday, and they are available on our website at nap.com.

Our presenters today are Bill Biggar, NAP’s President and CEO; Jeff Swinoga, Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer, and Greg Struble, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Please be advised that the information discussed today is current as of August 8, 2012, unless otherwise indicated and that comments made on today’s call may contain forward-looking information. This information, by its nature, is subject to risks and uncertainties and, as such, actual results may differ materially from the views and expectations expressed today. For further information on these forward-looking statements, please consult the company’s relevant filings with SEDAR and with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lastly, please be reminded that all currency amounts discussed on today are in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise stated. All references to production ounces refer to payable production and all tons are in metric tons.

And now I’d like to turn the call over to Bill.

Bill Biggar

Thanks, Camilla and good morning, everyone. During a very active development period in the second quarter and despite the weather-related challenges that we encountered, LDI delivered solid production results.

By way of background, in Q2, the Thunder Bay Region experienced unprecedented rainfall, resulting in flooding across the city of Thunder Bay to declare a state of emergency for two days. The impact of LDI was less significant, although there was an interruption in our underground mining activities at the peak of the event.

In the second quarter, we produced approximately 40,000 ounces of palladium at a cash cost of US$429 per ounce. Our realized palladium selling price in the quarter was US$622 per ounce, which gives a palladium operating margin of CAD193 per ounce for a total margin of about CAD8 million.

With a strong first half of the year, marked by almost 82,000 ounces of palladium produced, we’re confident that we will meet our 2012 production guidance of 150,000 to 160,000 ounces of palladium with cash cost in the range of US$375 to US$400 per ounce.

Our Q2 financial performance was, for the most part, within our expectations. Although compared to the same quarter last year, we were negatively affected by a lower realized palladium selling price, no gold sales, as well as the one-time costs of about CAD700,000 that were incurred relating to the flood mitigation efforts.

During the quarter we completed a CAD35 million flow-through financing and, subsequent to quarter-end, completed a CAD43 million convertible debenture financing. These financings have strengthened our balance sheet to facilitate the funding of our LDI mine expansion. Given the recent volatility of financial markets around the world and commodity prices, we believe that this was a prudent measure.

The LDI mine expansion continues to be our number one priority at NAP. Through an investment of CAD65 million in the first half of this year, we achieved a number of important development milestones and are nearing a stage of substantial completion on much of the surface work required to support the expansion. Above all, we remain on target to begin commissioning the shafts by year-end. And the commissioning of the shaft continues to be our primary focus as it will enable us to expand our output and lower our cost profile starting next year.

Now as you may have seen yesterday, we also released the results of our updated reserve and resource statement as of March 31, 2012 for LDI to reflect the results from our 2011 and Q1 2012 infill drill program. Recall that the objective of the infill drill program was to upgrade the resource model in support of ongoing development and mine planning. And I’m pleased to say that we accomplished this objective, as the results substantially upgraded categories, particularly the measured category, thereby giving the increased confidence in the resource estimates.

The new resource model provides a foundation for effective long-term mine planning that is critical to the successful ramp-up of mining operations in the Offset Zone deposit, while at the same time highlighting the tremendous opportunity to significantly expand resources from new underground drilling platforms that will become available next year after the shaft is commissioned.

And with respect to converting some of the Offset Zone resources into reserves, the estimation is currently in progress and is expected to be completed prior to year-end, following completion of our updated mining plan.

Now turning briefly to our gold business, now that we have all of the permits at Vezza, and with the development well advanced, we’ve recently announced that now is the appropriate time to explore divestiture opportunities and, ultimately, exit the gold business. While we continue to believe in Vezza’s cash generation potential, we believe we can build an enhanced shareholder value by focusing exclusively on our palladium assets and their growth potential.

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