Great Panther Silver a picture of success

Robert Archer, President and CEO of Great Panther Silver
Robert Archer, President and CEO of Great Panther Silver

A pretty picture. That’s what Vancouver’s Great Panther Silver (TSX:GPR), which today reported record earnings and revenue for fiscal 2010, has presented to investors. A few years ago, a pretty picture might just have been the downfall of the company.

That’s because one of the primary uses of silver, which the company mines at two locations in Mexico, used to be photography. In 1998, nearly 31% of all the silver used in the world was for photography; silver nitrate is a key component of consumer color film. By 2007, however, the advent of digital photography was dealing what looked like a crippling blow to the demand for the metal, as the photographic sector accounted for just over 14% of demand. The price of silver languished for years at $5 an ounce as demand waned even for its use in cosmetic jewelery.

So, end of story for silver miners right? Not quite. Since late 2008 the price of silver has been on an absolute tear, rising from under $10 an ounce to north of $35 today. The reason? New uses for the metal, which might make the prior demand from photography look like a blip on the radar.

According to the Silver Book, a comprehensive look at the silver market published by VM Group/Fortis Bank of the Netherlands, demand for silver from the energy, medical and water purification sectors is “likely to quadruple in the next 10 years.”

Silver’s sharp and sudden turn is good news for any company that can produce the metal, but it’s especially good news for Great Panther. That’s because while about eight per cent of all silver mined in the world comes as a by-product of other mining operations such as gold or copper mines, those with the best leverage are the companies with primary silver mines. Great Panther says it can produce silver, net of byproducts for (US) $6-7 per ounce.

As late as 2006, Great Panther’s goal of becoming a “profitable mid-tier silver producer” might have seemed a stretch. That year, the company scratched out revenues of just over $6 million and, in doing so, lost $15 million, or $0.25 cents a share. The numbers Great Panther reported today, however, make the company’s vision seem more than plausible.

Great Panther saw a 33% increase in mineral sales revenues in fiscal 2010, boosting their revenue to $42.2-million compared to $31.7-million for 2009. The company earned $5 million.

Great Panther’s management says it is in year two of a three year plan to accelerate production to 3.8 million silver-equivalent ounces, putting the company on the cusp of its coveted mid-tier producer status. Many investors weighing the evidence of the company’s suddenly rosy future versus its hardscrabble past are now clearly on board. Last July, shares of Great Panther Silver could be had for as low as $.71 cents. Earlier this month, the stock hit a high of $4.39.

Interested insilver? CLICK HERE to Check out our recent article on International Northair Mines (TSXV:INM)

Mike Luft

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