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Posted May 07, 2007 by publisher in Cuba-World Trade

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Dale Baker | Fool.com | Motley Fool

If you want to profit from the inevitable demise of Fidel Castro and his 48-year stranglehold on Cuba’s economy, skip the closed-end Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund (Stock Chart for NasdaqCM:CUBA)and its somewhat misleading symbol. Other Fools have noted how Herzfeld’s holdings have little to do with Cuba directly, and the current 36% premium at which the firm trades relative to its net asset value is just plain ridiculous.

Instead, Fools intent on investing in Cuba should try a more creative approach: companies in Canada that are already doing business on the ground down south.

Sherritt International Stock Chart for OTCBB: SHERF.PK) is a Canadian energy and mining company with a track record dating back to 1927. Its early years focused on natural gas and fertilizer production. In 1994, the company expanded to metals, with a joint venture to mine nickel in Cuba and refine the ore in Canada.

By 1995, Sherritt had interests in the commodity nickel and cobalt business in Cuba, Canadian fertilizer production, plus international oil and gas assets. It later added power-generation assets in Cuba—fired by natural gas it had discovered on Cuba’s north coast—a soybean processing plant, and thermal coal assets in Canada acquired from Fording.

Sherritt is the largest foreign energy producer in Cuba. Total production (in terms of barrels of oil equivalent) broke the 100 million barrel milestone in early 2005. Average net production in 2006 was approximately 30,000 barrels per day, both onshore and offshore. In 2007, Sherritt plans to drill 16 new wells to build its proven reserves, and shoot more 3-D seismic surveys in undeveloped blocks it owns.

Outside Cuba, Sherritt recently expanded its international mining footprint with the April announcement that it would buy Dynatec, which has a 45% stake in the Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar. The company also completed an 85-megawatt power-generation expansion project in Cuba, and began work on an additional 65MW plan.

From a revenue perspective, the metals division now counts for about half of Sherritt’s revenue, followed by oil and gas with 25%, and the rest divided between coal and power generation.

While Sherritt is not a pure Cuba play (roughly 40% of its 2006 revenues were Cuban-based), it has more exposure there than just about any other established company I have seen. It’s also producing strong results; in its May 2 quarterly earnings report, Sherritt announced a 150% profit jump on strong nickel prices. For all of 2006, earnings roughly doubled.

Investing in Sherritt today gets you established coal and gas interests in Canada, the full range of operations in Cuba, plus growing worldwide metals exposure. At less than 12 times trailing earnings and less than 8 times 2007 EPS estimates, Sherritt looks cheap to this Fool.

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