BERAL, INC.
Andrew Racz
Director of Research
300 East 54 Street, Suite 26C
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 319-6949
Fax: (212) 753-1944
E-mail: mlikar@aol.com

Palladium

December 8, 2010
 

      STOP THE WORLD!           
                      I WANT TO GET OFF.

The constant rare element of the automobile industry.
INTERVIEW WITH

Mark Bedford
Senior Analyst of
Johnson Mattey PLE
London, England
44-20-7768-8400

Speaking at the launch of Johnson Matthey's interim PGM review at the London Stock Exchange, Bedford said that the sale of Russian state palladium stocks was key to the balance of the market.

"If this amount is not sold then palladium could be in a deficit in the market in 2011," said Bedford. "We may see more Russian stock sales next year, but this is something which is coming to an end now and this will put pressure on the supply side for palladium."

Russia sold 960,000 ounces of palladium from state stocks during 2009, but analysts have warned that the in flow of the white metal to the market from Russia may be coming to an end.

Platinum's sister metal has rocketed up 65% in price since January and some believe that it could reach $1000
if Russian stock sales cease.

The white metal hit a nine year high earlier this month, reaching $712.90, its highest since April 2001. Johnson Matthey forecast a 15% rise in demand for the metal by the end of the year, to 8.94 million ounce.

ANDREW RACZ:   Mr. Bedford, the way I look at palladium and rare elements can be summarized in a simple sentence.

"Stop the world and I want to get off."

Within the next five years, with the attention of the financial press, palladium, which is in such short supply, can change the whole operation of the automobile industry and hurt several countries. And there isn't any theory which would indicate how the world is going to solve it. Now that applies more to rare elements than palladium, but it reminds me of "Stop the World, I want to get off." How would you comment on this?

MARK BEDFORD:   I certainly wouldn't characterize palladium alongside the rare earth elements. I think they are rather different subjects. I mean, we view palladium alongside platinum as important industrial metals.

ANDREW RACZ:   Correct.

MARK BEDFORD:   They are markets which are well supplied by the mines in South Africa and other parts of the world, and there are really quite substantial reserves of these metals still to be mined going forward. So although the supply and demand can get tight, as they do from time to time, I wouldn't characterize them quite in the way that you have.

AR:   Not totally, but there is a similarity. The vital necessity of palladium affects many key industries.

MARK BEDFORD:   It certainly affects many key industries. I mean, as you know, palladium is a key component in automobile catalysts. They are used as catalysts in many other different applications. It's used in electronics, a whole variety of applications.

AR:   In the mid-'70s, I was in South Africa on a business trip and I've seen platinum mines. And at the same time, platinum was $140 and the futures market started to pick up as an important item, next to gold on the Comex. In Johannesburg, I was told that they have all the supply in the world, and it would never be in short supply. Now the merit of that conversation was that since then the price of platinum has gone up more than fifteen fold. So in other words, is there a historical reminder in that palladium -- we have now a short supply -- is in very important industries, but the price may go up because the demand will bring along potential or real shortage in the not-too-distant future.

MARK BEDFORD: I'll try to find the right answer to that question. I mean, platinum and palladium, yes, you rightly identified the primary source of those metals as the mines in South Africa. In the case of palladium, Russia is a particularly important producer, but which produces a by-product of nickel mining. We've identified in the interim review that we produced, relatively in a close predominance insofar as primary supply on a yearly basis and supply from recycled metals is pretty much in line with demand, so they are I suspect a quite small and volatile market compared to some other commodities. But the other important fact is that there are substantial reserves of these metals in South Africa in particular which will be mined and will secure for many, many years into the future. It's my understanding that there are other metals in some of the base metals, the base industrial metals, which don't have those kinds of reserves going forward. So it's a mixed picture, I would say. I think the one thing to remember about these particular markets is that they are relatively small compared to some other industrial metals. I think that has an effect on the volatility of the price in particular because they are relatively scarce and small, and there is limited trade in these metals compared to some others.

Palladium prices will be supported by fundamentals and investment, said the report, highlighting increasing automotive and industrial demand as drivers behind a hike in prices. Johnson Matthey said it forecast an average palladium price of $710 per ounce in the next six months with an expected trading high of $850 in the period, adding that the price was unlikely to fall below $550.

Palladium stocks are set to remain at similar levels to 2009 at 7.14 million ounces, with gross demand rising by 15% to 8.94 million ounces compared with last year.

"The demand side has developed since May," Johnson Matthey director Mark Bedford told Kitco News. "We haven?t seen the double dip that everyone was looking out (for), but there are a few uncertainties still out there like the possibility of sovereign debt issues disturbing the wider economy."

After what it called a "miserable" 2009, Johnson Matthey said that the automotive sector was expected to recover strongly in 2010, with global light duty vehicles expected to be close to 70 million units for the full year. The report said that Europe would see the largest increase in automotive platinum demand with an expected rise of 46% to 1.42 million ounces, due to an increase in diesel vehicles' share of the market after a decline in 2009 and an uptick in consumer demand.

AR: So let's put down some fundamentals. Where do you mine palladium? Which countries?

MARK BEDFORD:   As I said before, the major sources of prime palladium are Russia and South Africa. In Russia, it is produced as a by-product of nickel mining. In South Africa, it is produced alongside platinum and rhodium and other platinum group metals and it's mined for its own sake there. There is also a source of palladium in North America at the Stillwater Mine in Montana. But that's really the only other significant one outside of Russia and South Africa.

AR:   I come back to this point...but let me ask you this. How much is the yearly demand for palladium?

MARK BEDFORD:   Let me just grab the right figure. The yearly gross demand for palladium at the moment is just over 7 million ounces. The total net demand is just over 7 million ounces.

AR:   The production is easily satisfied?

MARK BEDFORD:   Well, the total supply of palladium in 2010 is also just over 7 million ounces, so the market is quite tightly balanced.

AR:   In terms of reserves, if you exclude the recycled portion of palladium, is there any discrepancy, any shortage?

MARK BEDFORD:   As I said before, the unmined reserves of all the platinum group metals are very, very substantial. We did incidentally, just in very recent times, publish a paper in an academic publication that Johnson Matthew produces called Platinum Metals Review by a South African geologist named Grant Hawthorne, in which he outlines the long-term availability and geological accessibility of these reserves going forward. The conclusion of that paper is that there are substantial below-ground reserves of palladium. The number of extremely important applications, I believe, compared to some of the metals traded in much larger volumes. Now, these are relatively small markets and for that reason, some of the base metals have a certain attraction for certain kinds of investors simply because I think the day-to-day movement, into day movements, into month movements, can be quite substantially larger than they can be for other metals.

AR:   In other words, what you're saying is that the international organization supply of the markets is somewhat down and this oscillation brings about a speculative element in the futures market.

MARK BEDFORD: Yes, I think there is a speculative element in the future market.

ETFS Physical Palladium Shares (PALL)

Investment objective

ETFS Physical Palladium (PALL) is designed to offer investors a simple, cost efficient and secure way to access the precious metals market. PALL is intended to provide investors with a return equivalent to movements in the palladium spot price less fees.

Daily security data
 
Last price (USD)
72.38
Change since previous close (%)
0.45%
NAV(USD)
76.5279600
Mid point(USD)(1)
73.41
Premium Discount (%)
0.11%

AR:   And is there any other replication? I mean, are there any new applications which can break out which would create more demand?

MARK BEDFORD:   I think looking forward into the future, we can see some new technologies, particularly for platinum, for example, which look quite exciting. The use of platinum catalysts in fuel cells is likely to be important in the future and you can, of course, have your own view on the future of that particular technology. But there is no doubt at all that if fuel cells become an important technology as a source of clean energy, then that is an important new application for platinum which is coming down the track. That's a particularly good example. As far as palladium is concerned, there is nothing quite like that out there in the future that we can see at the moment. But there is a lot of research and development that goes on all the time looking for new applications for those metals. So to say that there won't be an important new application in the future I think would be premature.

AR:   A lot of new ideas came along, Apple Computers, various devices, the total evolution in automobile manufacturing, hybrid cars. In other words, things are happening in the marketplace on the demand side. Would that have an effect on palladium?

MARK BEDFORD:   Well, palladium in particular, in electronic applications, for example, Apple hand-held phones or your Apple device or iPhone contain a lot of multi-layered ceramic capacitors. And a lot of those multi-layered ceramic capacitors are based on palladium technology. So in a device like the iPhone, there would be 10-20-30-40 MLCC's each containing a small amount of palladium. Hand-held electronic devices contain--

AR:   In the automobile industry, where we are expanding geographically and technologically, is there a big new application for palladium in electric cars?

MARK BEDFORD:   What's happening, of course, is that platinum and palladium are both used in vehicle emission controls. What we see is that emission controls globally are tightening up as governments seek to reduce the level of noxs in carbon dioxide. So what happens in developing markets of vehicles, such as India, Brazil and China, is their level of emission controls is gradually brought into line with those that we see in more developed Western markets.

Some Salient Features of the Automobile Industry
1964 When I immigrated to the United States:
  
U.S. production
14 million
 
World production
30 million
2010
World production
68 million
2015-18
Projected world production
82 million
  
Electric cars
6-8 million

AR:   What you are describing, that there is a market, supply/demand more as the same as in mining, that's not enough because something always goes wrong. At the same time, the world is expanding electronically and in other ways, and there can always be a new application found which has to be funded from the mining industry. If they can't, then of course the price will go up substantially.

MARK BEDFORD:   That's a fair summary. The only thing you have to remember, and it's an important factor in terms of platinum group metals, is that there is very substantial recycling of precious metals. All catalysts, for example, the level of recycling in the North American market, is really quite substantial. The same with electronic goods. It is not only a primary supply of metal that we need to keep an eye on, but it is also the re-supply of recycled metal back to the market. The precious metals industry has always really led the way in recycling, and that will be equally important going forward. But there is still the primary metal as we go forward.

AR:   So basically what's happening here...I never trusted the mining industry because something always goes wrong. Someday they default, raise prices, raise costs. The mining industry is not a uniform business. Nobody really has control over them. That's been the last hundred years. And I think there is an element, namely palladium, which is tied to many other elements, particularly palladium. It is also mined in two countries, and this is going to supply a business which is first strong in demand but could increase in demand substantially over the years. That's really the picture I got.

MARK BEDFORD:   I think that's a fair summary.

AR:    You know South Africa?

MARK BEDFORD:   Yes. That's why you used the rare element analogy, I suppose.

AR:  But five billion people are working. And everybody in India, Brazil, Russia, they have the same demands as your family. They have their own Piccadilly, their own Park Avenue. In 1964, they did not. And the world expanded. Thirty years ago, Johnson Madden didn't have an office in New York or in America. If I am correct, you didn't.

MARK BEDFORD:   I don't know. I mean, certainly we started out as a joint venture with Matthew Bishop, if you remember the name of that company. There was a precious metal company called Bishop in the Philadelphia area, and I think Johnson Matthew's first venture in the U.S. was a joint venture called Matthew Bishop. But that goes back a little bit.

PARIS (Reuters) Car industry experts foresee problems if exports of rare earth metals from China needed for car production are threatened, they told the Reuters Global Autos Summit, as data showed 2010 Chinese imports could dry up.

Rare earth metals like neodymium are used in the powerful magnets in electric motors for cars. China produces 97 percent of the world's rare earth metals, which are also used in the production of other high tech and defense products.

Rare earth mineral exports from China could dry up for the rest of the year, according to data cited by China's Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday.

Frost & Sullivan senior consultant Nicolas Meilhan told the Reuters Summit a shortage of rare earths could pose a problem, but the full effects would only start to be felt once electric vehicle (EV) sales increased.

Rare earths are used in rechargeable batteries for electric and hybrid cars, including Toyota's (7203.T) popular Prius hybrid.

"I think it's a huge problem because those metals are used for electric motors. Any car with an electric motor will use these rare earth metals," he added.

"It could be that we'll have some supply problems there, probably not in the next couple of years but if EVs start to represent a significant part of sales then maybe we'll have to find other countries with rare earth metals," Meilhan said.

If no other sources could be used, the car industry would find alternative substances, Meilhan said.

"Those materials are the most adapted to these technologies. Of course you'd be in a position to find some alternatives," he said, although performance could be affected.

Valeo (VLOF.PA) Chief Executive Jacques Aschenbroich told the summit rare earth supply could be a short term problem, but new supply sources could emerge if the materials were not available from China.

"Every time you have a kind of a control or a very high increase in prices, some mines somewhere else than China will open up again, because then the price becomes more attractive," Aschenbroich said.

"I think it could be a short term problem and not a long term problem. I don't think there will be a lack of availability of products in the few years to come. I think that some additional sources of supply will come."

Aschenbroich said the availability of some electronic components was a more immediate worry. "Short term, that is much more of a headache than rare earths," he said.

He added: "I don't expect China will cut off the supply and make the products absolutely unavailable in the market. It might happen but I don't think it is the most credible scenario."

Disclaimer

Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized statistical services, issuers reports or communications or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us and we do not make any representation to its accuracy or completeness. Any statement non-factual in nature constitutes only current opinions which are subject to change. BERAL INC. or their officers, directors, analysts or employees may have positions in the securities or commodities referred to herein, and may as principal or agent buy and sell such securities or commodities. An employee, analyst, officer or a director of BERAL INC. may serve as a director for companies mentioned in this report. Neither the information nor any comment expressed shall constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or commodities mentioned herein. There may be instances when fundamental, technical and competitive opinions may not be in concert. This firm may from time to time perform investment banking or other services for or which investment banking or other businesses from any company mentioned in this report.

 

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Andrew Racz. 300 East 54 Street, Suite 26C, New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 319-6949 Fax: (212) 753-1944. E-mail: mlikar@aol.com

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