Companies/stocks like Methanex (NASDAQ:MEOH) will earn you some early gray hairs. Methanex has long been the world leader in methanol production, with market share more than double its nearest competitor (depending upon how you treat state-owned businesses). What's more, while methanol prices and revenue have been endlessly volatile over the years, the company has always managed to generate positive EBITDA, nearly always managed to generate operating income, and typically generated positive cash flow, as well as strong returns on capital in the good years.
The problem is that this is a tough business in which to earn any sort of consistent return. Revenue actually shrunk over the last decade and EBITDA margins have swung between 5% and 30%, with long-term book value per share growth of just 3%. Looking ahead, demand for methanol in applications like fuel blending, biodiesel, and methanol-to-olefins, as well as growth in coatings, sealants, and other downstream markets, should be healthy, but I expect that state-owned enterprises in areas like the Middle East and China will be willing to add capacity in response.
Methanex's valuation is not so compelling to me, but historically these shares have done well in times of rising methanol prices. Hence the "musical chairs" part of this article's title - while I think supply curtailments and growing demand from applications like MTO can support higher spot prices (and strong cash flows for Methanex) from here, it won't go on forever and this is not a long-term buy-and-hold type of stock.
Methanex - Long-Term Opportunity, Or Musical Chairs?