Ur-Energy readies its Lost Creek mine and in-situ processing facility for a Uranium Bull Market in 2022

The uranium market is back. The uranium price rose very strongly in H2 2021 and is now consolidating, having reached US$46.45/lb. Demand for baseload nuclear power should only increase this decade as the world looks to de-carbonize and move away from coal power. Is this the beginning of a uranium bull market?

Source: Trading Economics

Today’s company announced in November 2021 its intention to prepare for “full production-ready status” at their U.S uranium mine with production able to begin following preparations in Q1 2022.

The company is Ur-Energy Inc. (NYSE American: URG | TSX: URE). Ur-Energy operates its flagship Lost Creek ‘in-situ recovery’ uranium mine and facility in south-central Wyoming, USA. The Lost Creek Mine and facility has been on care and maintenance awaiting higher uranium prices. When operational, Ur-Energy is among the top two U.S uranium producers and is a global low-cost uranium producer. It also owns the Shirley Basin, Lucky Mc mine, and Last Soldier uranium projects in the USA as well as the Excel Gold Project in Nevada.

Ur-Energy uses a uranium in situ recovery process at their Lost Creek Mine which has a lower environmental impact

Source: Ur-Energy website

In the November 1, 2021 announcement Ur-Energy Chairman and CEO, Jeff Klenda stated:

“In addition to the release of our 2021 Q3 results we are pleased to announce the commencement of a development program at Lost Creek that will advance us from reduced operations to full production-ready status. As of October 27, 2021, we had more than $40 million in cash and 285,000 pounds of U.S. produced U3O8 in inventory worth approximately $13.4 million, stored at the conversion facility…. “

“Throughout the prolonged downturn of the uranium market…. we optimized our production processes, conducted extensive maintenance, and readied the Lost Creek plant for full production. Now we are seeing a fundamental shift in the uranium market, as evidenced by a 70 percent rise in the spot price from earlier year lows and are taking active measures to better prepare for immediate start up when warranted.”

Note: Bold emphasis is by the author.

Fast forward to today and we still have similar strong uranium prices as in November 2021 and, we are in Q1, 2022. This means we can reasonably expect Ur-Energy to soon announce a move from reduced operations to full production operations.

Huge expansion of uranium production potential for Ur-Energy

Lost Creek is capable of ramping up to an annualized run rate of one million pounds of uranium production.

CEO Klenda stated: “Our second uranium ISR project, Shirley Basin, stands ready for development and construction. Having received all remaining major approvals for Shirley Basin earlier this year, we have effectively doubled the Company’s licensed and permitted production capacity.”

U.S. uranium Reserve update and Build Back Better plan

In June 2021 World Nuclear News reported: “The request notes that the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration are working to develop and implement the reserve which received an enacted USD75 million in FY21 but does not request funds for the program in FY22.”

Then in September 2021, the U.S Federal register stated: “The Department of Energy (DOE) published the Request for information (RFI) to invite public comment on topics related to the Establishment of the DOE’s Uranium Reserve program on August 11, 2021.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute highlights 2022 as potentially being a good year for nuclear, with the Build Back Better Act poised to hopefully pass in early 2022, which includes a production tax credit (PTC) for electricity generated by nuclear power plants in operation today.

Closing remarks

A stronger uranium price is looking positive for the uranium miners in 2022. Constrained supply and strengthening demand are near-term positives. In the longer term, the move away from coal powered baseload energy to nuclear energy is another potential positive this decade for uranium.

Ur-Energy is a top two U.S uranium producers, currently preparing to start up production again at their Lost Creek Mine. The Company can rapidly ramp back up its uranium supply and has an additional capacity that can be developed in the near term, particularly at Shirley Basin.

Ur-Energy trades on a market cap of US$266 million. Will 2022 be the year U.S uranium miners finally bring back lost production capacity? We will soon see.

Rapidly Growing LEAF Mobile is now East Side Games Group as it expands its partnership with Mighty Kingdom and prepares to list on the LSE

Did you know that LEAF Mobile Inc. is now East Side Games Group Inc. (TSX: EAGR | OTCQB: EAGRF)? The Company is Canada’s leading free-to-play mobile game group. Actually LEAF Mobile Inc. acquired East Side Games Inc. in early 2021 for C$159M, but has clearly decided that rather than keeping the name as a subsidiary it is a better name for the whole company.

The name change was announced in December 2021. CEO Darcy Taylor commented about the name change saying: “We’ve been working on this change for some time, and it represents a change in our trade name; not our purpose, our vision, our structure, or how we operate and it comes at an exciting time in the Company’s growth as we ramp our launch slate of new games and further scale our Game Kit partners.”

Some of East Side Games (formerly LEAF Mobile Inc.) popular free to play mobile games

Source: East Side Games Group website

East Side Games Group expands the Mighty Kingdom partnership

East Side Games Group recently announced an expansion of its publishing and Game Kit partnership with Mighty Kingdom Games Pty Ltd for the world wide release of three additional free-to-play mobile games on iOS and Android. The games are expected to launch during 2022 and 2023 and will be published by East Side Games. The company’s CEO, Darcy Taylor stated:

“This expanded partnership with Mighty Kingdom is a testament to the quality and performance of our Game Kit technology that allows for a material decrease in the typical build to launch timeline for mobile games developed on the platform. Having Australia’s largest independent game developer join us for an additional three games speaks volumes about our platform.”

As you can imagine, in the mobile games development world, speed to market is important, as is the publisher’s brand name, portfolio of games, and distribution. In the case of East Side Games Group, they rate well in all areas.

East Side Games Group to list on the LSE

Perhaps more exciting for investors is that East Side Games Group will soon be listed on the London Stock Exchange (“LSE”). The Company stated in November 2021: “This secondary London listing is part of LEAF’s growth strategy and brings Canada’s largest free-to-play mobile game group to the LSE. The net proceeds of the capital raising will be used to further scale the business.”

East Side Games Group revenue is forecast to more than double in the next two years

East Side Games Group’s revenue in 2021 is forecast to be C$90M and rise to C$201M in 2023. If achieved, it would be a more than doubling of revenue in just 2 years. This is up enormously on 2020 revenue of C$31M, making East Side Games one of the fastest growing mobile games publishers/developers. Clearly East Side Games Group is very serious in accelerating their growth to capture as much as possible from the booming mobile gaming market.

Facts about Mobile gaming

  • Newzoo – Mobile games are expected to reach 2.6 billion players and generate revenues of USD 90 billion in 2021, representing more than half of the global games market in terms of revenue.
  • Games are also the most dominant category within the mobile applications ecosystem with gaming accounting for more revenue on iOS than every other category combined.
  • Sensor Tower – Games accounted for 66% of all ‌App Store‌ revenue in 2020, approximately USD 47.6 billion was spent on iOS games in 2020, up 25% from 2019.


Closing remarks

Investors may be familiar with the name LEAF Mobile Inc. from some of our past articles here on InvestorIntel. The latest changes are really a new company name, which I think better matches the company’s core business of being a games developer and publisher.

East Side Games Group continues to grow its portfolio of game development studios, publisher partnerships, and mobile games which is now translating into rapidly growing revenues for the Company.

New exposure on the global stage via the LSE listing can only benefit the Company further. Stay tuned in 2022.

In 2022 Neo Lithium Shareholders prospered, and Neo Performance Materials is in the spotlight

Neo Lithium Corp. (TSXV: NLC | OTCQX: NTTHF) was one of the standout performers in 2021 delivering a return to investors of 219%, a 5.35x gain for those investors lucky enough to have bought in at the IPO on July 20, 2016 at C$1.20 per share. Neo Lithium is now trading at C$6.42 with the Zijin Mining takeover offer at C$6.50 a share having recently been approved by Neo Lithium shareholders.

Today’s article gives an update on Neo Lithium and mentions another company that has several things in common with Neo Lithium, meaning it could be the next success story.

Neo Lithium stock price went from C$1.20 at IPO to $6.42

Source: Yahoo Finance

An update on Neo Lithium

As announced on December 10, 2021 Neo Lithium shareholders approved the arrangement effectively selling their shares in Neo Lithium to China’s Zijin Mining Group at C$6.50 a share. 91.42% of shareholder votes were in favour of the transaction. The announcement stated: “Subject to obtaining all required approvals and satisfying all required conditions, the Transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022…..Following closing of the Transaction, the Common Shares will be de-listed from the TSX Venture Exchange.” There is the option for investors to buy into China copper-gold miner Zijin Mining Group (SHA: 601899) (HK: 2899) if they wish to still have exposure to Neo Lithium’s prized 3Q Project, whose Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was recently approved by the Catamarca Government in Argentina.

Effectively this ends the story for investors in Neo Lithium. But there is a another ‘Neo’ to consider.

Neo Performance Materials Inc. (TSX: NEO) – The next ‘Neo’

While there is no doubt that Neo Lithium President & CEO, Dr. Waldo Perez, (who also discovered Lithium Americas Cauchari Project) and its CFO, Carlos Vincens, played a huge role in the success of Neo Lithium, there is another person of interest. And that is Neo Lithium Chairman Constantine Karayannopoulos, who served on the Neo Lithium Board from February 9, 2016. He is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of Neo Performance Materials Inc. (TSX: NEO). Neo Performance Materials returned shareholders a 49% gain in 2021 and offers investors a similar early stage (to get in) opportunity, albeit this time in rare earths processing and permanent magnets materials.

For investors who believe success breeds success (as I do), and who look to follow star performers then I suggest you take a closer look at Neo Performance Materials. The Company is unique in the way it is positioning itself as the only non-Chinese processor of rare earth materials into separated rare earth chemicals that are then used internally to produce rare earth fine chemicals, metals, alloys, and “bonded” rare earth permanent magnets. You can read more about Neo Performance Materials in my linked article below.

In the above article global rare earths expert Jack Lifton quotes his view on Neo Performance Materials stating:

“Neo Performance Materials is today, the only Western company that is vertically integrated with the capability and commercial scale capacity to separate the rare earths, manufacture rare earth metals and alloys, and manufacture rare earth permanent magnets. It is the non-Chinese model for any venture seeking to enter or assemble a total rare earths permanent magnet supply chain.”

Neo Performance Materials position in the supply chain for rare earths based products

Source: Neo Performance Materials company presentation

Closing remarks

The story on Neo Lithium is now closing with the successful takeover by Zijin Mining now in its final stages. Investors who were in early, since the IPO, made a very nice 5.35x gain, and in some cases even more if they followed me buying at the 2019 low around C$0.58 (see my article here) and selling recently above C$6.40 for a 11x gain.

Looking ahead I see some similarities between Neo Lithium and Neo Performance Materials. Both have top quality management and Constantine Karayannopoulos is involved in both. Both companies are leaders in their field, noting Neo Lithium in lithium and Neo Performance Materials in rare earths processing and production of valuable rare earth based end products. Finally, both are beneficiaries of the EV boom and the demand for EV related metals such as lithium and the rare earths, NdPr.

They say follow the money and that is true, but better still is to follow successful top tier management, especially if they have the tailwind of a winning trend.

In 2022 we say farewell to Neo Lithium and hello to Neo Performance Materials. It should be another great year for those companies related to the electric vehicle boom.

Search Minerals is coming off a great 2021 but 2022 promises to be even better

Search Minerals Inc. (TSXV: SMY | OTCQB: SHCMF) (Search) stock price rose an impressive 223% in 2021 and looks set for another strong year in 2022.

Search Minerals 2021 in review

There were several reasons for the rise including positive sentiment towards the rare earths miners, particularly those with projects containing the valuable magnet metals Neodymium (Nd), Praseodymium (Pr) and Dysprosium (Dy) used in powerful electric motors. All three rare earth metals prices have been rising strongly the past year on the back of surging demand from electric vehicle manufacturers as we saw EV sales rise about 100% in 2021. Search’s flagship Port Hope Simpson (“PHS”) property has many key rare earth elements including Nd, Pr, Dy, and Tb (Terbium).

Another key factor for Search’s success in 2021 was that management delivered strong progress. This included a non-binding MOU with USA Rare Earth LLC for the future delivery of a rare earth mineral concentrate supply containing 500 tpa of NdPr. The MOU is part of a joint development plan to expand the collaboration to include discussions regarding separation, marketing and offtake of a portion of the future production at Search’s Deep Fox and Foxtrot deposits. During 2021 Search was able to purchase back a 2.5% Net Smelter Royalty (NSR) from B&A Minerals Limited in return for 15 million common shares of Search Minerals, leaving just an outstanding royalty now of 0.5%. Other progress in 2021 included a successful 7,000m drilling program completed at Deep Fox as well as several successful capital raises including the most recent C$15 million and C$5.3 million equity raises. This leaves Search very well-funded to advance its plans in 2022.

Search Minerals has district scale rare earth deposits at Port Hope Simpson (PHS) property (flagship) (includes Foxtrot, Deep Fox, Silver Fox, Awesome Fox, and Fox Meadow deposits)

Source: Search Minerals company presentation

Search Minerals in 2022 and beyond

Q1 2022 should see Search deliver an updated Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”) for the combined Deep Fox and Foxtrot deposits at their PHS Property. It is anticipated that this will potentially be a very significant improvement of the 2016 PEA, which only included the Foxtrot deposit. It resulted in a post-tax NPV10% of C$48 million and post-tax IRR of 16.7% over a 14 year mine life. The initial CapEx was C$152 million, and a further C$57 million in year 8 for the underground stage of the Project.

Search quotes some of the reasons why the 2022 PEA should be better:

  • Increase production rate from 1000 tonnes per day to 2000 tonnes per day
  • Increase recoveries from optimized pilot plant process
  • Increase revenue from higher grades at Deep Fox
  • Extend mine life with material from both Deep Fox and Foxtrot for a central processing facility
  • Decrease costs with reduced capital and operating costs
  • Upward trending price escalations for permanent magnet material.

In Q2, 2022, Search plans to submit an updated Environmental Impact statement based on the updated PEA.

In Q3 and Q4, 2022 Search will continue to drill Deep Fox to potentially further grow the Resource as well as drill Fox Meadow and Silver Fox and commence a Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS).

All going well Search hopes to make a Final Investment Decision (FID) in 2023 and commence production in 2025.

Search Minerals 2022 catalysts

Source: Search Minerals company presentation

More about Search Minerals

Search Minerals Inc. is an emerging rare earths developer with three properties in Labrador, Canada. The three are:

  • The Port Hope Simpson (“PHS”) property (flagship) – Includes Foxtrot, Deep Fox, Silver Fox, Awesome Fox, and Fox Meadow deposits. PEA due in Q1 2022.
  • The Henley Harbour Area in Southern Labrador.
  • The Red Wine Complex located in Central Labrador.

Closing remarks

Search Minerals is coming off a great 2021 but 2022 promises to be even better. Certainly, it looks like Search can deliver an impressive 2022 PEA at PHS, given that the project economics will have potentially improved significantly. The PHS Project also has significant exploration upside and potential to further grow the Resource in 2022.

Search Minerals trades on a market cap of C$74 million. The next 3-4 years could be game changing for Search Minerals, if they can make it to production in 2025, or 2026.

Targeting next generation silicon anode materials NEO Battery Materials up 387.5% in 2021

2021 will be remembered as the year that the western world woke up to the electric vehicle (EV) boom, especially boosted by the fact that global electric car sales look set to finish up about 100% YoY. So what will 2022 bring? I previously wrote here my top 3 stock picks for 2022 and here are my top 5 graphite miners to watch in 2022; but today’s company looks set to benefit from a little-known trend in the EV world.

That trend is the increasing use of silicon in battery anodes to boost battery performance, especially charging speed and energy density (range). This is because when a battery charges the rate of charge depends on how quickly the ‘anode’ can absorb or fill up with electrons. By adding silicon into the graphite anode it is better able to absorb more electrons and therefore the battery has better capacity. Companies continue to work on some of the challenges of silicon in anodes which include swelling, cracking and lower cycle life.

NEO Battery Materials is making progress in developing better silicon anode materials


Today we look at NEO Battery Materials Ltd. (TSXV: NBM | OTCQB: NBMFF) (“NEO”) whose stock price rose 387.5% on the TSXV in 2021. NEO is a Canadian battery materials company with a current focus on developing silicon anode materials through an ion-and electron-conductive polymer nanocoating technology.

Looking back on 2021, NEO had a strong year (company highlights here) especially in building up both their technology and their team. You can read some more on that in my last article: Making lithium-ion battery components more durable and efficient to improve battery capacity. In that article, I discussed how NEO’s ‘pure’ silicon anode materials were already achieving much higher cycle-life than competitors (NEO is achieving 1,000 cycles) with the main benefit of silicon material in anodes being greater energy density and charging speeds. Conventional lithium-ion batteries with graphite anodes have a cycle life of between 2,000 and 5,000+ cycles.

It should be noted that there is today a growing market for silicon anode materials to be used as an additional material combined with a conventional graphite anode to boost performance. Tesla is one of many that use silicon-graphite anodes.

In recent months NEO has made further progress as shown by three recent significant announcements:

Within the three announcements above the key progress for NEO is the launch of 3 types of silicon (“Si”) anode active materials (NBMSiDE-P100, NBMSiDE-P200, and NBMSiDE-C100), and the fact that NEO is on schedule for semi-commercial scale production of these materials by the end of 2022. Regarding the 3 silicon anode materials NEO stated:

“The three types of products are manufactured through NEO’s proprietary nanocoating technology and are based on metallurgical-grade silicon with purities of at least 99.95%…..NEO’s technology significantly improves the life span and cycling stability compared to conventional metallurgical silicon-based particles.”

NEO President and CEO, Spencer Huh, stated: “We are very glad to bring the 3 types of silicon anode active prototypes to the market as a result of valuable research and development for the past 7 years. All our business developments are aligned with our plans and strategy, and we have complete confidence in pushing towards the semi-commercial plant facility in South Korea. NEO is positioning itself as a low-cost, robust Si anode materials supplier for electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries, and we are set to provide long-term value for all stakeholders.

Note: Bold emphasis by the author.

The Company also stated: “NEO is expediting the process of developing its 100% pure silicon anode based on CNT (carbon nanotube) conductive additives and new robust binder technologies, and is currently conducting research and progressing commercialization projects regarding the graphite/silicon composite anode through active collaboration with companies that have signed NDAs……..Our process that effectively reduces the cost of Si anode production will act as a stark point of differentiation compared to existing and potential competitors.”

NEO recently launched 3 types of silicon anode active materials (NBMSiDE-P100, NBMSiDE-P200, NBMSiDE-C100) 

Source: NEO Battery Materials announcement on December 6, 2021

Also of significance is that NEO has established and built its R&D Scale-Up Centre at the Yonsei University of South Korea through NEO Battery Materials Korea Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company. NEO believes that this R&D center “could speed up further development of additional NBMSiDE pipelines of silicon anode active materials.”

Closing remarks

NEO is at the leading edge in developing lower cost silicon anode active materials and recently launched 3 new silicon anode materials products with another 2 to follow soon. Usually, once product samples are released it often leads to off-take agreements. Planned semi-commercial scale production of these materials by the end of 2022 offers a strong potential catalyst for investors.

NEO Battery Materials trades on market cap of C$34 million and is definitely a stock to watch closely in 2022.

All Eyes on Australia in 2022 as a Global Rare Earths Production Leader

The rare earths sector, particularly the rare earth magnet metals (such as neodymium (Nd)), had a great 2021; but given that the electric vehicle (EV) and clean energy booms are just getting started, 2022 should be another strong year. The most powerful electric motor magnets used today are known as permanent magnets, and they typically are made of neodymium iron boron (NdFeB). Dysprosium (Dy) and praseodymium (Pr) are also commonly used in permanent magnets.

As shown below, neodymium prices had a very strong 2021 reflecting a very strong demand for permanent magnets used in powerful electric motors. It is interesting to note the correlations of price and EV car sales from the chart below especially when considering that the peak months for global electric car sales in 2021 were March, June, October, November, and most likely December (usually the best month of the year).

If you think electric car sales will boom again in 2022 and throughout the decade (as I do), then there is a strong case for owning the rare earth miners of these key magnet metals.

Neodymium 1 year price chart – Currently at CNY 1,110,000/t (USD 174,134/t)

Source: Trading Economics (red arrows by the author to show peak e-car sales months in 2021)

Where is the opportunity in rare earths?

Most rare earths reserves are found in China, followed by Vietnam, Brazil, Russia, India, Australia and the USA. Canada also has some rare earths. Most of the global rare earths production is from China followed by USA and Australia.

For Western investors, the two largest rare earths producing mines are owned by Lynas Rare Earths Limited (ASX: LYC) and MP Materials Corp. (NYSE: MP). A third smaller producer is Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU | TSX: EFR), which, however, is a processor, not a rare earth miner.

For investors looking at the next potential rare earths producer then best to look to Australia and Canada. Today I will focus on Australia.

Australian rare earth miners

Lynas Rare Earths Limited (ASX: LYC) (Lynas)

Lynas is the second largest NdPr producer in the world. Lynas owns the Mt Weld rare earth mine and Concentration Plant in Western Australia (WA), one of the world’s highest grade rare earths mines. Lynas ships concentrate from WA to their Malaysian plant for separating and processing into commercial rare earths’ materials. As part of their 2025 plan, Lynas is progressing their new Kalgoorlie Rare Earths Processing Facility in WA as well as their LRE/HRE separation & specialty materials facility in the USA.

Boosted by strong prices and production (5,461t of NdPr in FY 2021), Lynas reported record sales of A$498 million and a record profit of A$157 million in FY 2021. I would expect this to continue in 2022.

Lynas is no longer cheap and trades on a market cap of A$9.69 billion, and a 2022 PE of 24.9. A top tier Western rare earths (NdPr) producer.

Australian Strategic Materials Limited (ASX: ASM) (ASM)

Australian Strategic Materials is an emerging integrated producer of critical metals for advanced and clean technologies based in Australia and South Korea. ASM plans a “mine to metal” strategy to extract, refine and manufacture high-purity metals and alloys that they can then supply directly to global manufacturers. ASM plans to produce a range of high-purity metals, alloys and powders from their metals plant in South Korea. Products will include titanium, zirconium and rare earths, required for permanent magnet production with the raw materials initially sourced from the market. The plan is to later source some materials internally, notably from their flagship Dubbo Project.

The Dubbo Project deposit contains rare earths, zirconium, niobium and hafnium. The Dubbo Project is ready for construction, subject to financing. In December 2021 ASM announced an updated base case in which the 20-year life of mine is expected to achieve a pre-tax NPV of A$2,361 million and a pre-tax project internal rate of return of 23.5%.

In November ASM announced the commissioning of their Korean Metals Plant in Ochang Province, South Korea. In December ASM announced they had formed a JV with Resource Corporation (KOMIR) (formerly known as Korean Resources Corporation (KORES)) to enable the supply of critical minerals and metals into Korea.

Korea is a tech-based manufacturing powerhouse, and this JV is very timely as non-Chinese tech manufacturers try to wean themselves from dependence on China-centric supply chains.

ASM trades on a market cap of A$1.34 billion.

Arafura Resources NL (ASX: ARU) (Arafura)

Arafura own the shovel ready Nolans rare earths (NdPr) Project in the Northern Territory of Australia. Arafura is aiming to be a trusted global leader for sustainably mined and processed rare earth products and plans to mine and process ore to separated commercial oxides at a single site at their Nolans Project. The main focus being to produce NdPr oxide. The Project has all Federal & NT Environmental approvals secured and Government and Minister support for A$300 million senior debt facility. Basically, the Project is ready to go subject to final project funding being secured. Subject to that funding, first production is targeted to begin late 2024.

Arafura trades on a market cap of A$333 million.

An interesting side note to end on is that Arafura quote:

  • EV market growth is exponential: 10 to 40 times in the next 20 years. This will require 615 times more rare earth elements.
  • Most EVs need about 1kg of rare earths for their motor magnets.
  • Just 0.05% of the vehicle cost: but it can’t run without it.
  • Market analysts forecast a supply gap that represents 109% of global supply today and is in excess of 11 Nolans Projects.”

Source: Arafura Resources October 2021 company presentation

Closing remarks

We should remember that in 2021 the Morrison led Australian Government announced a A$2 billion loan facility for Australian critical minerals projects. These funds have the potential to help Australian rare earths juniors to move towards production.

Combine this with high magnet rare earths prices and surging demand, and we have all the ingredients for a strong 2022 from the Australian rare earths’ miners.

Matt Bohlsen’s Top picks in defense, aviation, and related ETFs for 2022

As we start 2022 one area of concern is global geopolitical uncertainty. In particular, Russia continues to threaten Ukraine, and China threatens almost everyone. The biggest Chinese threat, for now, is probably to Taiwan. Then there is always the threat posed by North Korea. Given the increasing global tensions, it is not surprising that many countries are boosting their defense spending. This leads to an opportunity for investors who want to be ahead of the game just in case a war or conflict breaks out.

Furthermore, it is starting to look like 2022 will see some recovery in the civilian aviation sector, assuming we are near the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, or at least getting back to more normal living.

Research groups also see a recovery ahead for U.S aerospace and defense. Fitch stated in December 2021: “Fitch Ratings views the 2022 Aerospace & Defense (A&D) sector outlook as improving following a bottoming out in early 2021 and a moderate improvement in 2H21.” Deloitte also forecasts a recovery in 2022.

Below are three defense or aviation stocks/ETFs to consider in 2022.

Defense stocks can offer some safety to a portfolio especially if we get any conflicts in 2022

iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF

The iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (ITA) seeks to track the investment results of an index composed of U.S. equities in the aerospace and defense sector. The advantage of using the ITA ETF is the broad exposure to the U.S aerospace & defense sectors, which are sure to gain if there are any global breakouts of hostilities.

The current top 5 holdings are:

  • Raytheon Technologies Corporation. (NYSE: RTX) (20.83%)
  • The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) (18.38%)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) (5.27%)
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) (4.71%)
  • TransDigm Group Inc. (NYSE: TDG) (4.66%)

The ITA ETF trades on a PE ratio of 26.59, with a dividend yield of 0.9%pa.

An alternative to the ITA ETF is the SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF (XAR) with a key differentiator being that XAR takes an equal weighted approach. XAR describes its approach as an “equal weighted index which provides the potential for unconcentrated industry exposure across large, mid and small cap stocks”. XAR trades on a weighted average PE of 24.75.

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC)

Northrop is one of the world’s largest weapons and military technology providers. It is also a large U.S military aircraft manufacturer. What I like about Northrop is that it is well diversified and provides products and services across the air, land, sea, space, and cybersecurity sectors.  Over the years Northrop has grown organically but also via takeovers, including that of Orbital ATK Inc., a global aerospace and defense systems company. This has enhanced Northrop’s capabilities especially in the area of Ground-Based Interceptor (‘missile’) products.

In March 2021 it was reported that Northrop had won a US defense contract for up to $3.9 billion to design the next-generation interceptor for the U.S. missile defense network. The report stated: The new interceptors would be a part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system here, a network of radars, anti-ballistic missiles and other equipment designed to protect the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Northrop’s stock rallied on the news, but there is still the possibility of a contract extension or expansion as Reuters stated: “The next-generation interceptor program could be worth as much as $10-$12 billion over its lifetime as the contractor works to make the technology capable of defeating current threats and future technological advances from countries like North Korea and Iran.” There is also the next possibility of a space based defense system (read “a space-based sensor layer for ballistic missile defense“).

Northrop trades on a market cap of US$62 billion and has a current PE ratio of 16.1. Not bad when you consider the U.S S&P 500 PE is currently 33.8.

The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA)

When it comes to U.S companies with massive exposure to defense, aerospace and civilian aviation there is none bigger than Boeing. I like Boeing in 2022 as it stands to benefit both as the aviation industry recovers post-COVID-19, and if we get any rise in the defense stocks due to global conflicts.

Boeing is an aerospace company that manufactures commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems. Its products, and tailored services, include commercial and military aircraft, satellites, weapons, electronic, and defense systems, launch systems, advanced information and communication systems, and performance-based logistics and training.

Boeing trades on a market cap of US$125 billion and has a 2022 PE ratio of 32.8. Not cheap but remember Boeing is potentially at the early stage of an earnings recovery as global airlines look again to open their airline order books. One example of this is today’s news of U.S. carrier Allegiant Air rumored to be buying 50 Boeing 737 MAX jets valued at US$5 billion.

Closing remarks

We never know when the next terrorist attack or a global conflict will breakout. Given the tensions building after a tough two years enduring the COVID-19 global pandemic, it would not be surprising to see a geopolitical event spark in 2022. Will it be Ukraine, Taiwan, North Korea, the South China Sea, the Middle East, a terrorist attack on Western soil, or an unforeseen black swan event? It is hard to predict, but one thing is certain, and that is that buying up some ‘defense’ stocks as insurance, early at very reasonable market valuations, makes a lot of sense as we enter 2022.

Finally, the aviation sector looks poised to come out from its worst-ever downturn caused by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

It now looks like it is time to book a seat and invest back into the defense, aerospace and aviation sectors in 2022. Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride, hopefully with much less turbulence in 2022.