Assuming you aren’t a meme stock or an equity driven by the Reddit army, then you know you’ve told the market something it really wanted to hear when your stock is up 80% in one day. Even great news might get you a 5-10% bump so it has to be pretty exceptional to attract this kind of attention. Another indication of excitement is when this move occurs on volume that is 32x your average daily trading activity. If you didn’t have Voyageur Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (TSXV: VM) on your watchlist (or in your portfolio) prior to today, you might want to put it on your radar now.
So, what was the news that drove this bullish rally? We’ll get to that in a moment as a little background may be required unless you are up to speed on the uses and importance of barium sulfate. Barium sulfate (BaSO4) is a naturally occurring environmentally friendly mineral with a high specific gravity (4.5) and very low solubility. Barium sulfate is used in many industrial applications and is in high demand. Voyageur is pursuing production into the highest margin market worldwide, having developed nine barium products for sale into the radiology pharmaceutical market for MRI, X-ray and CT scan applications.
Now that we’ve established that Voyageur is a drug manufacturing company focused on radiographic contrast media products for the healthcare market, we need to understand what separates it from most other companies. Voyageur is sourcing its own main ingredients from its own mineral deposits, building a business model that will allow it to be a fully integrated company in the radiographic marketplace. Voyageur is implementing a strategy to control its own supply chain and all input costs, leading to the Company motto “From the Earth to the Bottle”. Which is where yesterday’s news becomes important. The Company announced the results of its Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) for the development of its Frances Creek pharmaceutical barium sulfate project, located 40km from Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia. The base case economics for the project indicate a pre-tax net present value (NPV) of C$464 million and internal rate of return (IRR) of 168%, while the post tax NPV is C$344 million with an IRR of 137% at a discount rate of 8%. The project assumes a pre-production period of 2 years for equipment delivery and installation, and mine permitting with a payback period of 11 months.
At present, Voyageur’s Frances Creek project is the only natural pharmaceutical grade barium sulfate project outside of China. Most companies use high-cost synthetically made barium due to supply and quality constraints. Which is why current pricing of 97.5% BaSO4 available from China has a delivered price (to Calgary) of US$4,760 per tonne, or C$5,960 per tonne. This project is very convenient for Voyageur given its proximity to Calgary where the corporate head office and manufacturing facilities are located. It’s less than a 2 hour drive and although I don’t know exactly where their asset is situated I’m pretty sure I’ve either fished or hiked within 5 kms of the project.
Another reason for the robust PEA economics is a function of the resource being a mere 2 meters below surface. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, any resource that can be accessed by someone with a good shovel has to have advantageous economics. The total capital cost estimate for the project is a miserly C$36.4 million including a 15% contingency on process capital costs, which also contributes to the outstanding PEA economics.
And the best part is, Voyageur expects to be generating its own cash flow using third party barium active pharmaceutical ingredients and manufacturing in 2022. With its manufacturing partner Alberta Veterinarian Laboratories/Solvet it has completed its first test batch of barium contrast media and is working on clinical testing of this first batch to ensure quality and performance. Voyageur’s goal is to complete testing for the Canadian product launch by February followed by a marketing campaign for sales into the Canadian radiology market. Ultimately, Voyageur has plans to build all the required infrastructure to become 100% self-sufficient with all manufacturing but for now, one step at a time.
This isn’t the first time Voyageur has seen a massive one day move on enormous trading volume. On February 12, 2021, following news of Health Canada approval for SmoothX, a barium radiographic contrast suspension that is specifically formulated for computer tomography procedures (CT Scans), the stock was up 228% on 7 million shares. You could say Voyageur has a flare for the dramatic and perhaps there is still opportunity for lightning to strike a third time. With roughly 101 million shares outstanding, the market cap was roughly C$18.2 million based on yesterday’s close of $0.18 versus the PEA NPV after tax of $3.38 per share. Obviously, there is some work to be done before the Frances Creek project becomes a reality, but there’s also a pretty big gap between yesterday’s price and what could be.