Following continued delays of a Brexit agreement, few sectors within the UK market have remained attractive to investors despite low valuations. One sector which has continued to outperform despite the political drama has been the UK video gaming sector (henceforth UK gaming), which we are fans of. We believe a combination of sector-leading growth, strong cash conversion and timely cyclical positioning support our positive view on the UK video gaming sector.
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In January, we provided a list of 11 stocks for 2019 that we believed would perform strongly with attractive catalysts that could lead to material outperformance. In this Quarterly Research Outlook, we revisit these views, analysing what has happened and how the remaining six months of the year could play out.
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We’re just over three months in to 2019 and we’ve seen a 10% UK market rally, retracing much of the Q4 decline, such is the nature of fickle market sentiment. That said, many of the issues we wrote about three months ago that were impacting markets remain: notably Brexit, trade wars, geopolitics and global monetary policy. The 2019 rally thus far feels somewhat fragile, with competing forces of optimism on a potential trade deal which could underpin the rally, against the deterioration in underlying economic data that could ultimately undermine the recent market gains. In this context, we look at what the lead indicators and the market are telling us about the industrial cycle and the stocks most exposed to various industrial trends. The Q4 derating in short cycle industrials and autos had been vicious and while these sectors have seen a more solid footing in 2019, with earnings downgrades being priced in, it will likely take a trough in lead indicators before short cycle stocks can start to perform again and re-rate relative to the market.
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The market has not faced quite so many conflicting challenges for a number of years, whether related to global geopolitics, trade wars, ongoing Eurozone issues or the “will they, won’t they” saga of Brexit. In our Best Ideas, we sought to highlight stocks that present investors with interesting opportunities following recent market moves. Those stocks, we believe, warrant investor attention, in many cases for uncorrelated or stockspecific reasons, regardless of the near-to-medium term market direction. These stocks, in general, represent attractive and well-managed businesses or assets, with share price catalysts and where valuations or recent stock performance provide investors with a good entry point.
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The June IPO of Knights Group Holdings, a Top-100 regional law firm, marked the fifth entrant to the burgeoning UK-listed legal sector. Following recent expansion of our coverage across all five listed legal firms, complemented by coverage of three broader support services peers with exposure to the sector, we revisit and build upon our views on this rapidly evolving sector.
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In Q2, UK equities regained some of their poise after the draw down in Q1, although uncertainty around Brexit continued to grab the headlines. On the back of this, investor concern about the UK economy has been understandable in recent months given a number of negative data points. However, we see reasons for optimism for UK Plc with wage growth supporting an improving outlook for the consumer and business investment holding up. That said, continuing UK political disruption clearly remains a risk going forward.
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1Spatial (SPA LN) Capital markets day highlights growth potential | Abzena (ABZA LN) Monetising the Abzena Inside portfolio | Consort Medical (CSRT LN) Prelims in line – another setback with Mylan | Gym Group (GYM LN) Positive corporate and premium pricing newsflow | N Brown Group (BWNG LN) In line update but number of moving parts might leave investors cold | Rathbone Brothers (RAT LN) Acquisition of Speirs & Jeffrey, no EPS accretion until FY20e | RhythmOne (RTHM LN) FY18 results show execution, EBITDA to almost quadruple in FY19 | Speedy Hire (SDY LN) Recovery delivered; Returns improving
Companies: ABZA CSRT GYM BWNG RAT RTHM SDY SPA
Pharmaceutical Services is a vast and varied landscape, reflecting the complexities in the discovery, development, manufacturing and monitoring of drugs and devices, all within a stringent regulatory environment. The overall growth prospects are highly favourable: drug development activity globally is on the up, led by smaller companies, which is driving demand for outsourced services. In this report we provide a breakdown of the sector into its main activity segments, and identify biologics, increasing service specialisation and consolidation as important value drivers. Finally, we present 15 companies (9 of which are publicly listed) that, in our view, are well placed to benefit from the sector’s secular growth trends.
Companies: ABZA BQE CSRT INS UDG CLIN ABZA HZD ERGO OXB
Interims are in line. Revenues +6.1% reported, PBT+7.7% but adj EPS was only up 3.2% and Net Debt is still high at £97.1m. There is no new news on Mylan contract for generic Advair and we do not expect to hear anything until mid-2018. A couple of small contracts have drifted away. We make only minor changes to our estimates and don’t see any catalysts in the short term. The shares now trading on 17.7x P/E to Apr-18, 12.4x EV/EBITDA - not obviously cheap without growth picking up but maybe there is enough promise on the Mylan contract to keep people interested for now. We move to Hold from Buy.
Companies: Consort Medical
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Today’s FY results are in line with our expectations, highlighting an improving operating performance at Aesica. The core Bespak delivered an in-line performance, impacted as expected by the termination of the supply agreement with Nicovations. We reiterate our Buy recommendation (upgraded from Hold in December 2016) and 1,125p target price.
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Venture Life Group has reported on a very strong H1/20A period. Revenues were up 80% with operational leverage delivering c100% growth in gross profit and +350% adjusted EBITDA growth. Performance was supported by the acquisition of PharmaSource, strong sales to China, sales of new brand, DISINPLUS, and the group's ability to maintain production at its Italian manufacturing facility. With this report we have introduced FY21E forecasts, expecting the company to maintain its growth momentum and deliver 10% revenue growth. Venture Life is delivering a strong performance, we maintain our Buy recommendation.
Companies: Venture Life Group Plc
Yourgene continues to progress across all areas of the business, with core trading on track. Demand has been increasing for Yourgene’s Covid-19 testing services, and is expected to reach 10k/month from early October onwards. This would equate to a £3.0m boost to revenues in the year to Mar-21 and we upgrade forecasts accordingly, with outer year estimates unchanged for now. We view this as a base level of demand, with scope for further upgrades if demand continues to increase and/or lasts beyond March. Our underlying estimates for the core are unchanged.
Companies: Yourgene Health Plc
Alliance Pharma’s H1 interims are relatively robust, with trading conforming to recent commentary. Whilst there has been an impact in some areas of the business in H1 (Prescription Medicine) as expected per the trading update in July, the rest of the business particularly Kelo-cote, has proved very resilient and highlights the defensive nature of the business, and underlying adj. PBT (excl. amortisation and impairment charges) was solid in H1 2020 at £16.3m (+7% YoY). We anticipate some push and pulls in H2 2020 but net we anticipate a better performance as demand recovers, and the Board have reiterated that full year results are expected to be in line with market expectations. The reinstatement of an interim dividend of 0.536p signals confidence in this. We have used today’s announcement to reinstate our forecasts, which are broadly in line with guidance and consensus. Our new FY’20 forecasts are c.10% below our previous estimates prior to the Covid-19 pandemic with YoY revenue and adj. EBITDA growth rates of -6.5% and -10.1%. We forecast a return to growth in FY’21 and have used the opportunity to introduce our FY’22 numbers looking for ‘see-through’ revenue of £153.2m and adj. EBITDA of £41.5m. Our main ongoing concern is that growth is highly dependent on Kelo-cote, a situation that has been augmented during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Group needs to turn once again to deal-making to supplement organic growth to grow the portfolio. On our revised estimates, our new DCF/Peer group multiple derived target price is 91p/share and we move from Hold to Buy.
Companies: Alliance Pharma Plc
IXICO has been selected as the image collection and analysis partner for the Bio-Hermes trial, co-ordinated by the Global Alzheimer's Platform Foundation (GAP). The trial, aiming to assess Alzheimer's Disease (AD) biomarkers, will see IXICO analyse the brain scans of 1,000 patients with early stage AD. While participation will deliver revenues to IXICO in subsequent years, we believe the enhanced profile amongst the trial participants and GAP industry partners will deliver significant ‘intangible' benefits to the company. We maintain our Buy recommendation.
Companies: IXICO Plc
Yourgene has announced it has appointed IBL-America as a non-exclusive distributor for its range of PCR-based reproductive health and oncology products, including the DPYD assay which tests whether cancer patients are at risk from the administration of a common chemotherapy agent. These will be initially sold into the Research Use Only market in the US. As such, initial revenues are likely to be modest, but will act as an important test bed for establishing potential demand in the clinical setting. If the reception is positive, products will be submitted for FDA registration, potentially unlocking a £30m addressable market opportunity. We make no change to our forecasts, but view this another positive step to generating meaningful revenues in the world’s largest market, which remains a largely greenfield opportunity for Yourgene.
SDI reported full-year results to 30 April that were slightly ahead (+2%) of the trading update issued by the company on 23 April with net debt of £4.0m comparing favourably to our forecast of £4.3m. Underlying organic growth of 3.7% organic growth, despite the COVID-19 disruption in Q4, was supplemented by growth from acquisitions in FY 2019 and FY 2020. Adjusted pre-tax profit rose 44% to £4.3m with adjusted EPS up 21% to 3.4p. Net debt at 30 April was £4.0m. With evidence of trading activity normalising and the positive outlook statement, indicating adjusted pre-tax profit to be at least as good as FY 2019, we reinstate forecasts. We re-introduce a target price of 100p, which implies the stock trading on FY 2021 P/E of 27.5x falling to 24.6x in FY 2022 – in line with its peer group (e.g. Judges Scientific which trades on 33.8x, falling to 27.5x for slightly lower growth) and underpinned by a FY 2020 free cashflow yield of 3.2%.
Companies: SDI Group Plc
Interim results to 30 June 2020 showed a 38% increase in revenues, despite COVID-related disruption to clinical trials, illustrating the clear commercial focus that has been brought to bear on its range of digital technologies and solutions. Together with an 18% reduction in operating expenses, adjusted LBITDA and pre-tax loss improved by £1.3m to -£0.29m and -£0.36m, respectively. Period-end cash was £1.96m, with cash burn falling £1.1m to £0.2m in the period. Break-even in Q4 2020 is still anticipated. The contracted order book increased 35% to c.£10m at 31 August (vs. 30 June 2020), providing increased visibility of revenues in H2 and FY 2021 (c.108% and 57% of current forecasts, respectively). Due to the changing working patterns that are emerging as a result of the COVID pandemic, we believe that Cambridge Cognition is well positioned to be a long-term beneficiary of the trend of running virtual trials. We leave forecasts unchanged, but in light of the strong order book and potential for future upgrades, we raise target to 80p, which implies a 2021 EV/sales multiple of 3.4x.
Companies: Cambridge Cognition Holdings Plc
Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS, NASDAQ:TLSA) has expanded the range of indications — which include severe inflammatory and autoimmune diseases — of its lead therapy fully human anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody Foralumab, signing a new collaboration in Brazil to develop the nasal formulation of For
Companies: Tiziana Life Sciences Plc
Allergy Therapeutics reported full-year 2020 results that were marginally ahead of expectations, driven by lower overhead costs (COVID-related) and lower R&D. This underpinned 25% growth in pre-R&D EBIT to £14.2m on 7% CER revenue growth and continued, albeit smaller, market share gains. Year-end net cash was £33.2m, providing the company with the financial resources to execute on current research programmes. The outlook remains characterised by the start of the Phase III Grass MATA MPL trial in US/Europe, enhanced by a broadening pipeline of opportunities and continued commercial traction in core European markets. We have made small upward adjustments to our forecasts and raise our target price to 45p, which is underpinned by the current commercial operations, with potential upside in Grass MATA MPL in the US (c.21p on risk-adjusted DCF), Polyvac peanut vaccine and the recently broadened VLP technology licence.
Companies: Allergy Therapeutics Plc
CVS had what we regard as a good FY20 – showing excellent progress during the first 8 months, highlighting a keen focus on the core business, and then recovering strongly as lockdown conditions eased. This reflects very favourably on the new exec team and the underlying resilience / attractions of the veterinary sector. Pleasingly positive momentum has continued into Q1-21 with LFL sales growth of 3.9% (8.0% comp) and an improved EBITDA margin. In the current climate the veterinary sector has attractive defensive growth qualities, with CVS very well positioned to both protect earnings and take advantage of a positive environment for acquisitions. Ongoing CV19 uncertainty means guidance remains suspended but the broad thrust of today’s results underpin the premium rating.
Companies: CVS Group Plc
Shield Therapeutics’ (STX’s) interim results highlight the progress made year to date. Re-analysis of the Feraccru/Accrufer AEGIS-H2H data show it is a credible alternative to IV iron therapy for iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) in the long term. With the product out-licensed in China to partner ASK Pharm, all eyes remain on the announcement of a US commercial partner (expected this year). Royalties received from H120 sales of the product (UK and Germany) by partner Norgine are slowly building, but pricing and reimbursement discussions resuming in Europe could lead to ongoing rollouts in key countries (France, Spain and Italy) in 2021. STX’s cash runway extends into Q121, an upfront licensing payment from a US deal would ameliorate the need for further capital. We value Shield at £379.1m.
Companies: Shield Therapeutics Plc
Cambridge Cognition reported encouraging interim results to June, with revenues up +39% to £3.0m and the Pre-Tax Loss sharply reduced to £0.4m. The company has made strong progress on its commercialisation strategy this year and, having announced £4.9m of contract wins in H1, a major win for a schizophrenia trial has since increased this to £8.4m. Although CV19 led to some contracted clinical trials being delayed in H1, this has been offset by new contract wins and going forwards we see a structural shift to virtual clinical trials which plays to CamCog's strength in remote clinical testing. We raise our FY20 revenue forecast to £6.3m (was £6.2m), which we view as conservative given the sales contracted for 2H20, though we are mindful of possible delays due to CV19. We continue to model a FY20 loss of -£0.7m, with CamCog moving into profit in Q4. We forecast the group to be profitable for FY21 and believe profits can build materially given the tailwind of 17-20% industry growth. We retain our Buy recommendation and raise our target price to 80p (was 75p).
Allergy Therapeutics delivered a solid 6% revenue growth for FY20 to £78.2m, from £73.7m, despite COVID-19 impacts taking a 2% toll. The well-established European commercial platform produced operating profit before R&D of £14.2m, from £11.3m, with R&D spend of £9.0m, from £13.2m. Pollinex Quattro Grass is set to start a pilot Phase III study before initiating full registration trials. The promising VLP-based peanut vaccine reported highly encouraging preclinical data which, if maintained, could be transformational for future prospects. The fruits of the development portfolio are expected to enable the market entry into the commercially attractive US. Cash resources of £37.0m are ample to fund near-term requirements. We initiate coverage with a £325m (51p a share) valuation.
Verona Pharma is delisting and cancelling its Ordinary shares from trading on AIM. It is consolidating trading on the NASDAQ market where it will retain its listing of American Depositary Shares (ADSs) under the ticker symbol VRNA. No general meeting is required to complete the AIM Delisting, which is expected to occur market close 29 October 2020. Each ADS represents eight Ordinary shares and are denominated in $. As per the company’s website, there are three options available now for VRP Ordinary shareholders: 1) convert the Ordinary shares into ADSs tradable on NASDAQ, if completed prior to the AIM delisting shareholders will not incur any charges; 2) hold their Ordinary shares, although they will no longer be publicly tradable, and to trade Ordinary shares would require the conversion into ADSs which after the delisting will incur charges; or 3) to sell their AIM-quoted Ordinary shares prior to AIM delisting.
Companies: Verona Pharma Plc
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact globally in many areas. While primarily a health issue, it has had wide-ranging implications for stock markets, which have now rallied after the plunge in share prices in mid-March when the full severity of the emerging pandemic became more widely appreciated. Nonetheless, the FTSE 100 Index remains almost 20% off its late February 2020 figure.
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