March 31, 2016 / 9:43 PM / 3 years ago

Canadian uranium company Nexgen mulls eventual stake sale as stock gains

(Reuters) - Nexgen Energy Ltd NXE.V, a Canadian uranium exploration company whose stock rocketed 79 percent this month, is talking with multiple uranium producers and buyers about selling a minority stake, its chief executive said on Thursday.

But the Vancouver-based company does not plan to add a partner before next year, said Chief Executive Officer Leigh Curyer, a former executive with Uranium One Investments Inc.

“We’re unique for an exploration company - the executives and board all have large-company experience,” Curyer said in a phone interview from San Francisco. “We know where we’re going.”

Mining explorers typically develop projects until sometime before construction, when major producers with greater capital and expertise take them over.

Potential strategic investors have expressed interest since 2014, but their enthusiasm spiked this month, Curyer said. The company estimated on March 3 an initial resource at its Arrow deposit in northern Saskatchewan of 202 million pounds, much larger and higher-grade than expected.

That size would make Arrow the third-largest deposit in Canada’s rich Athabasca basin after two Cameco Corp (CCO.TO) mines. It does not include 2016 drilling results, which have also impressed.

Nexgen has entered non-disclosure agreements with interested parties, but there is no hurry taking a partner, Curyer said.

The company has C$35 million ($26.93 million) in cash, enough to fund itself to mid-2017.

Nexgen’s stock runup demonstrates rare investor excitement about uranium, which is stuck in a five-year slump. Brisk reactor-building in China has led to forecasts of a uranium shortfall by the end of the decade.

Arrow, fully owned by Nexgen, is located in stable rock, unlike some uranium mines that are prone to flooding.

“I think this will be the most profitable uranium mine the world has ever seen,” said David Sadowski, analyst at Raymond James, in an interview.

After several more years of drilling, permitting and studies, Arrow might start producing uranium around 2022, in time to capitalize on forecast higher demand, Curyer said.

Arrow is near two other attractive uranium deposits, owned separately by Fission Uranium Corp (FCU.TO) and Areva SA AREVA.PA, raising the possibility that one company might acquire all three.

Curyer hopes that will not happen until Arrow’s resource is more fully explored.

“Everyone asks me, ‘is someone going to take you out too early?’” he said, adding he thinks shareholders are patient. “We have the foundations of building a leading supplier of uranium on the global stage.”

($1 = 1.2997 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Chris Reese

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