Cameco announces 2021 financial results; 50% increase to 2022 dividend aligned with 70 million pounds of long-term contracting and improving market fundamentals; Next phase of its supply discipline begins while awaiting further market improvements and contracting progress
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, February 9, 2022
Cameco (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) today reported its consolidated financial and operating results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2021 in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
“Our results reflect the very deliberate execution of our strategy of full-cycle value capture. We have been undertaking work to ensure we have operational flexibility, we are aligning our production decisions with the market fundamentals and our contracting portfolio, and we have been financially disciplined. Since 2016, with our planned and unplanned production cuts, inventory reduction and market purchases, we have removed more than 190 million pounds of uranium from the market, which we believe has contributed to the security of supply concerns in our industry,” said Tim Gitzel, Cameco’s president and CEO.
“In alignment with 70 million pounds of additional long-term contracts added to our portfolio since the beginning of 2021 and the improving market sentiment that provides us with leverage to higher prices under our market-related contracts and for our unencumbered productive capacity, we are pleased to announce that it is time for Cameco to proceed with the next phase of our supply discipline decisions. And it is time to reward those who have supported our strategy. We are laying claim to our tier-one incumbency advantage as we further position the company to capture the value we expect to come from the growing demand for nuclear energy driven by the increasingly undeniable conclusion that it must be an essential part of the clean-energy transition.
“Our plan in no way represents an end to our supply discipline. What we are contemplating for our supply discipline still represents a much greater reduction than any other producer has made. In fact, we are continuing with indefinite supply discipline. Our plan includes both McArthur River/Key Lake and Cigar Lake operating at less than licensed capacity starting in 2024. We are taking a portfolio approach to our supply discipline. In 2021, we were operating at about 75% below productive capacity (100% basis), which came at a significant cost to our business. By 2024, we plan to be operating at about 40% below productive capacity (100% basis). This will remain our production plan until we see further improvements in the uranium market and have made further progress in securing the appropriate homes for our unencumbered, in-ground inventory under long-term contracts, once again demonstrating that we are a responsible supplier of uranium fuel.
“Starting in 2024, it is our plan to produce 15 million pounds per year (100% basis) at McArthur River/Key Lake, 40% below the annual licensed capacity of the operation. At that time, we plan to reduce production at Cigar Lake to 13.5 million pounds per year (100% basis), 25% below its annual licensed capacity, for a combined reduction of 33% of licensed capacity at the two operations. In addition, we plan to keep our tier-two assets on care and maintenance, and production at Inkai will continue to follow the 20% reduction until the end of 2023 unless Kazatomprom further extends its supply reductions.
“It will take us some time to transition McArthur River/Key Lake from care and maintenance to its planned production capacity as we complete critical automation, digitization and other projects, execute maintenance readiness checks, and achieve sufficient recruitment and training. Until we achieve a reasonable production rate, we expect to incur operational readiness costs, which will be expensed directly to cost of sales. In 2022, we could produce up to 5 million pounds (100% basis) depending on our success in completing operational readiness activities and managing the potential risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and related supply chain challenges. We will continue to meet our sales commitments from a combination of lower-cost production, inventory and purchases in order to maximize the value of our sales portfolio. As we ramp up to our 2024 planned production capacity, we expect to see a significant improvement in our earnings and cash flow.
“Our total planned production in 2022 continues to face risks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and related global supply chain disruptions, including at Cigar Lake where we expect to produce 15 million pounds (100% basis), which is 20% below licensed capacity, and at Inkai in Kazakhstan.
“Thanks to our deliberate actions and conservative financial management we have been and continue to be resilient. With $1.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments on our balance sheet, improving fundamentals for our business and our decision to prepare McArthur River/Key Lake for production, we have line of sight to a significant improvement in our future financial performance. Our strong balance sheet positions us well to self-manage risk, including any global macro-economic uncertainty and volatility that may arise. Therefore, we are pleased to announce that our board has approved a 50% increase to our annual dividend for 2022. In December 2022 we will pay an annual dividend of $0.12 per common share, up from $0.08 per common share.
“Our vision of ‘energizing a clean-air world’ recognizes that we have an important role to play in enabling the vast reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to accomplish the targets being set by countries and companies around the world to achieve a resilient, net-zero carbon economy. We have operating and idle tier-one assets that are licensed, permitted, long-lived, are proven reliable, and that have expansion capacity. These tier-one assets are backed up by idle tier-two assets and what we think is the best exploration portfolio that leverages existing infrastructure. We are vertically integrated across the nuclear fuel cycle. We have locked in significant value for the fuel services segment of our business in the recent price transition in the conversion market and we are exploring opportunities to further our reach in the nuclear fuel cycle and in innovative, non-traditional commercial uses of nuclear power in Canada and around the world.
“We are optimistic about Cameco’s role in capturing long-term value across the fuel chain and supporting the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. We believe we have the right strategy to achieve our vision and we will do so in a manner that reflects our values. For over 30 years, we have been delivering our products responsibly. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do. Embedded in all our decisions is a commitment to addressing the environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities that we believe will make our business sustainable over the long term.”
Summary of Q4 and 2021 results and developments:
- Fourth quarter net earnings of $11 million; adjusted net earnings of $23 million: Fourth quarter results are driven by normal quarterly variations in contract deliveries and the continued execution of our strategy. Adjusted net earnings is a non-IFRS measure, see page 5.
- Annual net loss of $103 million; adjusted net loss of $98 million: Annual results were driven by the continued execution of our strategy and the proactive measures taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adjusted net earnings is a non-IFRS measure, see page 5.
- COVID-19 pandemic: The health and safety of our workers, their families and their communities continues to be the priority in all our plans. As a result of the four-month precautionary production suspension at our Cigar Lake operation, in our uranium segment we produced only 6.1 million pounds (our share) in 2021, well below our committed sales. Additionally, we incurred $40 million more in care and maintenance costs than those we had planned for. Partially offsetting these costs was the receipt of about $21 million under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.
- Received dividends from JV Inkai: In 2021, we received dividend payments from JV Inkai totaling $40 million (US). JV Inkai distributes excess cash, net of working capital requirements, to the partners as dividends. See Uranium – Tier-one operations – Inkai in our 2021 annual MD&A.
- Contracting continues in strengthened price environment: In our uranium segment, since the beginning of 2021, we have been successful in adding 70 million pounds to our portfolio of long-term uranium contracts, bringing the total volumes added since 2016 to about 185 million pounds. Nevertheless, we maintain leverage to higher prices with significant unencumbered future productive capacity and a large and growing pipeline of uranium business under discussion. However, we are being strategically patient in our discussions to capture as much value as possible in our contract portfolio. In addition to the off-market contracting interest, there has been a re-emergence of on-market requests for proposals from utilities looking to secure their future requirements.
- Strong balance sheet: As of December 31, 2021, we had $1.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments and $996 million in long-term debt. In addition, we have a $1 billion undrawn credit facility.
- Tax dispute: In the fourth quarter we filed a notice of appeal with the Tax Court of Canada (Tax Court) in our dispute with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to have our $777 million in cash and letters of credit returned. See Transfer Pricing Dispute in our 2021 annual MD&A.
- Next phase of our supply discipline strategy: Continuing to align our production decisions with the market conditions and our long-term contract portfolio, starting in 2024, we plan for our share of production to be about 45% below our productive capacity. Productive capacity includes licensed capacity at Cigar Lake and McArthur River/Key Lake, and it includes planned production volumes at Rabbit Lake and our US operations prior to curtailment in 2016. In addition, at Inkai, we will continue to follow the 20% reduction until the end of 2023 as announced by Kazatomprom. This will remain our production plan until we see further improvements in the uranium market and contracting progress, demonstrating that we continue to be a responsible supplier of uranium fuel.
- 2022 guidance provided: Our outlook for 2022 reflects the expenditures necessary to help us achieve our strategy, including the ramp-up to the planned production of 15 million pounds per year (100% basis) at McArthur River/Key Lake by 2024. As in prior years, we will incur care and maintenance costs for the ongoing suspension of our tier-two assets, which are expected to be between $50 million and $60 million. We also expect to incur between $15 million and $17 million per month at McArthur River/Key Lake in operational readiness costs which will be expensed directly to cost of sales until we achieve a reasonable production rate. Operational readiness costs include all of the costs associated with care and maintenance in addition to the costs to complete critical projects, perform maintenance readiness checks, and recruit and train sufficient mine and mill personnel before beginning operations.
- Over the course of 2022 and 2023, we will undertake all the activities necessary to ramp up at McArthur River/Key Lake to the planned 2024 production. As a result, in 2022, we could produce up to 5 million pounds (100% basis).
- At Cigar Lake, we expect production of 15 million pounds (100% basis) in 2022.
- The production outlook reflects the expected impact of the delays and deferrals to development work at Cigar Lake in 2021 and the ongoing pandemic and supply chain challenges we are currently experiencing at all our operations.
See Outlook for 2022 in our 2021 annual MD&A for more information.
- 50% increase to 2022 dividend announced: As a result of our deliberate actions and conservative financial management we have been and continue to be resilient. With a strong balance sheet, improving fundamentals for our business, a growing contract portfolio, and our decision to prepare McArthur River/Key Lake to be operationally ready, we have line of sight to a significant improvement in our future earnings and cash flow. Therefore, for 2022, we are increasing our annual dividend. An annual dividend of $0.12 per common share has been declared, payable on December 15, 2022 to shareholders of record on November 30, 2022.
- Greater focus on technology and its applications: We continue our focus on innovation and accelerating the adoption of advanced digital and automation technologies to allow us to operate our assets with more flexibility.
- Clean-energy innovation: In 2021, we increased our interest in Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) from 24% to 49% and signed a number of non-binding arrangements to explore several areas of cooperation to advance the commercialization and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada and around the world. This furthers our commitment to responsibly and sustainably manage our business and increase our contributions to global climate change solutions by exploring other emerging and non-traditional opportunities within the fuel cycle.