Sell-side analysts desperate to add a little flair to dry research reports will try to spice things up by talking about "hidden treasure," "deep dives," or "plumbing the depths". Well, there is a company that actually does all of that. Odyssey Marine Exploration (Nasdaq:OMEX) is primarily in the business of finding and salvaging wrecked ships and it may be one of the strangest companies that trades on U.S. exchanges.

Investopedia Markets: Explore the best one-stop source for financial news, quotes and insights.

What They Do
Odyssey Marine operates several simultaneous and overlapping businesses. The core of what the company does is the use of advanced underwater technologies to find, characterize and salvage shipwrecks - often ships from the Age of Sail that sank with ample amounts of gold or silver on board. That is not all that the company does, though. Odyssey Marine also assists in more conventional salvage and recovery operations, conducts deepwater mineral exploration projects, and operates a museum exhibit that highlights some of the artifacts that the company has recovered from shipwrecks.

What's New
Investors may already suspect that this is a highly news-driven story and they would be right. Unfortunately, this is a story where the news can cut both ways. At present, the company is wrangling in court with the Spanish government over the rightful ownership of the 17 tons of gold and silver coins and artifacts found in the wreckage of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes - a Spanish galleon that sank in 1804. Spain has claimed, and U.S. courts have thus far supported, that it was a military ship and therefore protected by law from treasure hunters.

If Odyssey can get a reversal on appeal in its favor, it could be worth upwards of $500 million to the company. That said, maritime and salvage law is complicated and the outcome is uncertain.

On a more positive note, the company has just announced the confirmation of the discovery of the SS Gairsoppa - a British ship that was torpedoed in 1941 carrying 7 million ounces of silver. While the company will be splitting this with the British government (with the Brits getting 20%), the haul could still be worth upwards of $225 million (and possibly more, as collectors will often pay premiums above the metal value for coins or bullion that can be tied to specific ships or wrecks).

A Different Play on Metals
Although there is some value to cannons and other nautical memorabilia, Odyssey is in some ways like a permanently prospecting mining company. That gives it some of the upside in gold and silver prices that investors find in ETFs like SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE:GLD) and iShares Silver Trust (NYSE:SLV), but clearly quite a bit more risk than in those ETFs or conventional miners like Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) or Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM).

There's also a possible upside kicker from the deep-sea mining angle. Underwater mining is not really a major factor yet in the world, though diamond giant DeBeers does exploit offshore African sediments for diamonds. There is thought to be major potential to find deposits of precious metals and more conventional metals like zinc or cobalt, and while the environmental concerns are very real, and if companies like Neptune Minerals and Nautilus Minerals find some success, maybe major players like Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP) or BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) will look to follow.

Of course, Odyssey Maritime doesn't have the ocean to itself. Major shipping companies like Maersk have the resources and equipment to run salvage operations as well (though typically with more mundane targets in mind), and insurance companies will frequently contract with private salvage teams to try to locate lucrative wrecks. Moreover, it's not impossible to imagine that companies like Cal-Dive (NYSE:DVR), Oceaneering (NYSE:OII) or Transocean (NYSE:RIG) could get involved if undersea mining exploration really becomes a meaningful opportunity.

The Bottom Line
Is Odyssey Maritime right for your portfolio? It's a small company (below $250 million in market cap) with minimal analyst or institutional support and no history of profitability or cash flow generation. At a minimum, it is an extremely risky and speculative play - sure, there are plenty of wrecks out there to salvage, and likely hundreds of millions of dollars of gold and silver laying on the ocean floor, but finding these ships is not easy, recovering the treasure is not easy, and fighting in court for the right to keep it is not easy.

It would be absurd to try to talk about a model or fair value here. This is quite literally an investment in a treasure hunting expedition. Accordingly, it's a gamble and not an investment. That said, who cares? Investing is certainly a serious and sober endeavor, but there is also room for fun and flights of fancy. So long as people don't expect a stake in Odyssey Maritime to pay for the kid's tuition or their retirement, there's nothing wrong with the occasional punt on a speculative (if somewhat romantic) idea. (For additional reading, take a look at Investing In The Metals Markets.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: Vanguard Total World Stock

    Learn about the Vanguard Total World Stock exchange-traded fund, which invests in stocks located in numerous countries with a high level of diversification.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility

    Learn about the iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility exchange-traded fund, which invests in low-volatility equities traded on the U.S. stock market.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: BioShares Biotechnology Products

    Learn more about the BioShares Biotechnology Products fund, an exchange-traded fund that is focused on producers of FDA-approved drugs.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR EURO STOXX 50

    Learn about FEZ, the Euro Stoxx 50 ETF. FEZ tracks the 50 largest companies in Europe, making it the Dow Jones Industrial Average of Europe.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: ProShares UltraShort Nasdaq Biotech

    Learn more about an innovative inverse-leveraged sector exchange-traded fund, or ETF, the ProShares UltraShort Nasdaq Biotechnology fund.
  6. Chart Advisor

    Value Stocks Offer Stability in a Volatile Market

    With volatility on the rise, investors are turning to segments of strength such as value stocks. We'll take a look at several ETFs that could be worth a closer look.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Should You Follow Millionaires into This Sector?

    Millionaire investors—and those who follow them—should take another look at the current economic situation before making any more investment decisions.
  8. Professionals

    What to do During a Market Correction

    The market has corrected...now what? Here's what you should consider rather than panicking.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: First Trust Tactical High Yield

    Find out more about the First Trust Tactical High Yield fund, a debt security-focused ETF designed to produce high income.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: Market Vectors EM High Yield Bd

    Learn more about the Market Vectors Emerging Markets High Yield Bond ETF, a fund dedicated to subinvestment grade foreign debt issues.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)

    A security that tracks an index, a commodity or a basket of assets ...
  2. Exchange-Traded Mutual Funds (ETMF)

    Investopedia explains the definition of exchange-traded mutual ...
  3. Hard-To-Sell Asset

    An asset that is extremely difficult to dispose of either due ...
  4. Sucker Yield

    When an investor has essentially risked all of his capital for ...
  5. Lion economies

    A nickname given to Africa's growing economies.
  6. PT (Perseroan Terbatas)

    An acronym for Perseroan Terbatas, which is Limited Liability ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What does a high turnover ratio signify for an investment fund?

    If an investment fund has a high turnover ratio, it indicates it replaces most or all of its holdings over a one-year period. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does index trading increase market vulnerability?

    The rise of index trading may increase the overall vulnerability of the stock market due to increased correlations between ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!