Research

  • Buy by Alpha (04/04/2024)
    • 75.00 +79.90% by 01/10/2024

    Centrus is a US based uranium supplier of LEU (>$200M) and technical services (>$100M) with customers in the US, Asia and Europe. The company operates the only facility licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) to produce HALEU (20% U-235) required for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Centrus is at least 5 years ahead of competition on High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium.

    After the Q4'2023 >100% earnings beat the price dropped 25% in Q1'24. Centrus is currently trading at 10x my estimated $4/share in 2024.

    My thesis is that demand for HALUE and the latest sanctions on Russian LEU are strong growth opportunities for Centrus. The investment is however a long-term bet on the revival of nuclear energy with modern SMRs supported by US National Security policy, and threatened by geo-politics!

  • Valuation (4)
    • History

      In 2014 Centrus Energy emerged from Chapter 11 restructuring of former USEC (United States Enrichment Corporation). USEC was founded by privatization of US nuclear enrichment activities in 1995 through the USEC privatization act.

      After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan 2011 there was an over-supply of nuclear fuel. In addition this was followed by reactors being closed down (especially in Germany and Japan). And subsidized competition from renewable energy threatened profitability. The market reached a bottom in 2018 and started to recover. Since 2022 nuclear energy is seen as viable solution to reduce CO2 emission. The market is now expected to grow in the coming decades.

      15/05/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Global 'green' demand

      There are three trends supporting the growing need for green electricity in the future:

      • Replacement of fossil-fuels as source for 60% of electricity production.
      • Electrification as part of the green transition towards carbon-free energy.
      • Increasing electricity demand by a growing part of the worlds population.

      The demand for nuclear energy can be expected to double or quadruple in the next 10-20 years as part of the green transition. Globally new government initiatives and funds are made available to develop nuclear power facilities.

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      UK government announced £300M investment in HALUE (2024-01-07).
      Wind and solar will not be able to meet the demand for electricity and provide grid stability.
      04/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Nuclear waste

      Spent nuclear fuel contains <5% high level radioactive waste that requires geological safe (underground) storage. 95% of the nuclear waste can be recycled into new fuel. HALEU can be produced from existing nuclear waste, which can be an energy source for many decades. The US and other countries currently do not recycle nuclear waste and use short-term storage. I expect the general consensus on nuclear waste to change. Nuclear fuel will be recycled in the future!

      04/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Regulated market

      Centrus operates in a highly regulated market as nuclear fuel broker (LEU) and technology provider (HALUE). The company developed the AC100M centrifuge for HALUE production on American Centrifuge technology. The complex and highly regulated centrifuge technology are the companies moat. The required investment in technology, a safe facility and the regulatory process are hurdles for potential competitors (est $300-$500M CAPEX).

      It is the only company licensed to produce HALUE in this heavily regulated market. The only commercial enrichment facility for LEU in the US is operated by Urenco.

      The market is also regulated by proliferation agreements which restricts foreign competition.
      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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  • Business (4)
    • Strategy

      Centrus is currently mainly a broker in the supply chain and aims to expand its role in participation of global & geopolitical developments. It is well-positioned to play a larger role in the further nuclear energy market. Its strategy aligns with US National Security policy. The US allocates billions of dollars to stimulate the development of nuclear energy. Also several other countries start or plan new activities.

      The company has a first-mover advantage in the future HALUE market.

      04/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • LEU

      The LEU segment is the larger part of Centrus business. Since 2018 the LEU market has recovered including price levels. With the dominant Russian market position (40%) and the current geo-political situation it can be expected that prices remain high.

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      The TENEX contract has a low SWU price until 2028 after the 2018 price reset.
      04/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • HALEU

      In 2024 Centrus is to delivery 900kg HALUE ordered by the DOE (est. $90M). More HALUE and capacity will be needed to support the 9 committed/ongoing SMR design projects. The DOE drafted an RfP for the purchase of 145 MTU in 10 years (est. value of almost $4B). This is a starting point to fuel new SMR's that often require HALEU (20% U-235).

      SMR's are factory produced nuclear power facilities. The CO2 foot-print is similar to other green energy sources (11-12gCO2e/kWh vs Hydro 24g, Solar 40-50g). Market expectations are that SMR's will come into production after 2030.

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      HALUE prices are estimated to $25k/kgU with LEU (35 SWU) as feed material for HALEU production (6 SWU). On a fuel cost level HALUE is competitive to other fuel alternatives like gas or coal.

      DoD selected BWXT for Project Pele to develop a prototype (container sized) portable SMR to be delivered in 2025. The reactor is using HALUE TRISO fuel.
      US Air Force selected OKLO to site, design, construct, own and operate a microreactor facility for its airbase in Alaska. OKLO has a MOU with Centrus.


      03/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Technical solutions

      This segment includes technical service and the HALUE services contract. The construction Phase-1 HALUE contract was a cost-sharing agreement in which the DOE covered 80% (2020-2023).

      Phase-2 is a full year of operations to deliver 900Kg of HALUE (2024) with a value of $90M. This contract has the potential to be extended for 9 years.

      Other contracts:

      • X-Energy to support the design of the "TRISO"-fuel manufacturing process (2021-2027).
      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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  • Financial (4)
    • Deferred revenue and margins

      Deferred revenue liability is 35% of the balance sheet. This can impact revenue to cash conversion and the gross profit margin. From the reporting it is not totally clear how the company is contractual exposed or hedged. Although, in the 2023 shareholder letter the CEO announced an improvement in margins.

      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Historic financial position

      Centrus is the successor to USEC that emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2014. Due to this history the company had issued preferred shares, uncovered pension obligations and a negative equity value.

      Most of the issues on the balance sheet are resolved in 2023.

      Net income will be less volatile without major non-operational income/expenses.
      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • COMMON stock

      In 2021 Centrus repurchased all of its preferred stocks in exchange for common stock and a warrant to purchase 250.000 shares at $21 for a non-cash exchange against $5M liquidation preferences. The warrant expired in Feb'24. A transaction with >10% shareholder Morris Bawabeh (Kulayba LLC).

      The common stock position improved with all preferred stock related issues resolved! Earning are as of 2023 fully attributed to common stock.

      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Earnings

      With the current market conditions the LEU results can be expected to be unchanged in 2024. The technical solutions segment will be stronger with the $90M HALUE contract. With these assumptions I expect at least $4/share.

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      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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  • Risks (4)
    • ASSET OWNERSHIP

      Centrus has a lease agreement with the DOE for the Piketon facility and an operations agreement for HALEU production. The title to the facility and equipment are stated in the reporting:

      Any facilities or equipment constructed or installed under the HALEU Contract, or other contract with DOE will be owned by DOE and may be returned to DOE in an “as is” condition at the end of the lease term. DOE will be responsible for the D&D of any returned facilities or equipment. If we determine the equipment and facilities may benefit Centrus after completion of the HALEU program, we can extend the facility lease and ownership of the equipment will be transferred to us, subject to mutual agreement regarding D&D and other issues, including those impacted by DOE’s recent decision to competitively award a separate contract for operations of the HALEU cascade following the expiration of our HALEU Contract, which may be awarded to a third party.

      The situation with the ownership is a potential risk for the value of the company.

      04/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Sanctions / geopolitical

      Sanctions or other measures by the US, Russia or other governments that could disrupt the supply chain of uranium and LEU. In particular to obtain LEU under the supply contract with the Russian government-owned entity TENEX. In May '23 US imposed restrictions for Russian uranium/LEU import. And Russia has stopped shipments to the US.

      Currently Russia has 44% of the global uranium enrichment capacity, and the rest of the world does not have sufficient enrichment capacity to fuel nuclear power stations. Replacement of the Russian capacity is a potential catalyst for Centrus. The geopolitical situation could also become a business driver!

      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Legal exposure

      Several court cases are ongoing in the US related to past operations (at the Portsmouth GDP in
      Piketon, Ohio).

      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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    • Tenex supply contract

      In October 2020 the US extended the 1992 Russian Suspension Agreement for nuclear fuel to be exported to the US. The Russian company TENEX is a major supplier of SWU to Centrus. Centrus typically supplies the uranium to TENEX in return for LEU after SWU. The company must purchase a minimal amount of SWU until 2028. The purchase obligation exceeds the Centrus order book and requires new sales.

      The TENEX contract is a risk for the supply with the current geopolitical situation. The supply contract is the source for 50% of customer delivery through 2027. This is difficult to replace in case of sanctions.

      Centrus has a similar supply contract until 2030 with French Orano that could also supply SWU.
      02/04/2024 by ALPHA
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