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Uranium prices are rising, what stocks should you watch on the ASX?

We saw it all unfold with steel and aluminium, and now the Trump Administration has its sights set on the uranium sector with import tariffs looking likely.

Combine that with news the world’s two largest uranium producers are set to cut mine production and what do you have?

A pretty good probability uranium prices are going to continue on the up.

So which ASX stocks should you have on watch if the uranium price trends upwards as expected well into 2019?

The ASX has several micro-cap uranium players you might like to research, but big-name players like BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) unsurprisingly have some skin in the uranium game too.

However, it’s likely the first ASX stock that comes to mind when you think of uranium is Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX: ERA).

Based in the Northern Territory, Energy Resources is Australia’s largest producer of uranium oxide with export links to Europe, North America and Asia – and Rio holds 68.4% of Energy Resources shares.

Energy Resources is best known for its Ranger mine, which it began production at in 1981.

While Energy Resources’ share price is up today – 1.3% to 38c per share at the time of writing – it’s not been a good 12 months for the stock, with the announcement of a net loss after tax of $78 million, which did include an impairment charge of $90 million.

Cash flow suffered severely for the half-year to June 2018 too – down 146%, as EPS also dived from 15.1c per share in the previous corresponding period to 1.9c per share.

Although cash flow from uranium oxide sales before rehabilitation and financing remained positive for Energy Resources at $9 million and revenues from sales of uranium oxide were higher at $160 million for the half year compared to $150 million for the same period in 2017, higher fuel prices and maintenance pushed costs up with shareholders missing out on a dividend again.

Energy Resources has a lot stacked against it right now, likely more than rising global uranium prices can fix.

But with Asian countries progressing nuclear power programs and a fairly solid stockpile, this $194 million small cap might just be able to scrape through if it keeps its eye on the ball.

One to watch.

As the world’s largest diversified resources giant it makes sense that BHP has its finger in the uranium pie by way of its South Australian Olympic Dam project.

According to BHP, Olympic Dam is the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world, with the company working to inject new technology into the mine to reduce production losses and increase productivity gains.

BHP will bring in new cranes for Olympic Dam, and even introduce light electric vehicles to reduce exposure to and reliance on diesel.

These initiatives should only assist to increase uranium production at the site, but as such a diversified player, BHP’s focus is spread across its various commodities and projects as always.

One ASX-listed uranium exploration company that has been suffering is Paladin Energy Ltd (ASX: PDN) – with a $303 million market cap and projects across Australia, Canada and Africa, alongside its flagship project the Langer Heinrich Mine in Namibia.

Paladin has had a challenging few years to say the least – going from hero to zero in 2017 when it was placed in administration with a market cap of $80 million – down from more than $4 billion earlier in the decade when the uranium spot price was high.

And Paladin has struggled on, with its FY18 results released in late August showing revenue from sales of uranium oxide down 24%, but Paladin Chairman Rick Crabb believes the company is in a “unique position” to benefit from a revival in the uranium price.

Crabb says restarting production at its Langer Heinrich project will give the company a fresh shot at making ends meet, but there will likely remain some struggles to be overcome by Paladin in its post administration period yet and a lot of discipline going forward will be required.

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Motley Fool contributor Carin Pickworth has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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