While Travis Perkins sustained positive momentum in the majority of Q1 FY20, Coronavirus infected its final two weeks’ performance. In Q2 FY20, business activity will deteriorate judging by the c.66% revenue decline in the first three weeks of April. As the Brexit-related uncertainty and economic recession are likely to prevail in rest of the year, the cost-cutting and cash-preserving actions act as saviours.
Companies: Travis Perkins
A good year ends for Travis Perkins – the healthy FY19 top-line performance, combined with cost savings led to a profitability improvement during the period. However, management has maintained the cautious outlook for FY20, as the macro-economic uncertainties in the UK are far from over yet. Nevertheless, the Wickes demerger plan remains on track for Q2 FY20.
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Companies mentioned in this edition include: Vodafone, Brewin Dolphin, Energean Oil & Gas, FDM Group, Fresnillo, Henderson Smaller Companies Trust, Quilter, Sanne Group, *Travis Perkins/Wickes, Wizz Air and Pendragon.
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*Capital Access represents Travis Perkins/Wickes - if you would like more information or access to the Management team of this company, please get in touch.
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Companies mentioned in this edition include: Ashtead, Travis Perkins, Watches of Switzerland, JD Wetherspoon, S&U, McColl's Retail, Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Ted Baker, Premier Foods and OnTheMarket.
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Companies: OTMP SUS TPK
Travis Perkins maintained the strong momentum in Q3 FY19 – all continuing businesses, especially Toolstation and Retail, contributed to the top-line. Although, management sounded cautious about the near-term outlook, it expects the full-year performance to remain in line with expectations. Progress with the Wickes demerger is on-track, but the disposal of the P&H business has been paused amidst the uncertain macro-economic environment.
We have obtained clarity regarding Travis Perkins’ plan to demerge Wickes, the key takeaway being that the business will be spun-off as a publically-traded company by June 2020. While it remains to be seen if the separately-listed retail business would revive / perform better over time, the enhanced focus on trade-customers is likely to benefit Travis Perkins’ shareholders in the mid-term.
A strong Q2 19 performance by Travis Perkins was led by the improved business performance of Retail business and continued robust momentum at Toolstation. However, amidst the mixed key leading indicators of the UK builder’s merchanting and home improvement market, management maintained a cautious outlook for short-term demand. The demerger of Wickes was also announced. No material changes in our financial estimates.
Due to a change in Analyst role, Cenkos Securities plc has suspended coverage of the following stocks (see table 1). Our previous recommendation and forecasts can no longer be relied upon.
Companies: BDEV BWY BKG VTY COST CRST BBY FERG GLE KLR KIE MSLH MER MTO NXR PSN RDW RNWH SFR SHI MGNS TW/ CTO TEF TPK GFRD
Despite a solid start to the year (7.3% lfl sales growth), Travis Perkins has left investors guessing by not upgrading its full-year guidance of stable operating profit. Management has opted to wait for at least one more quarter, considering the macro-economic uncertainties in the UK. While we have improved the FY19 top-line growth estimate (following a strong Q1 performance), this momentum is not sustainable for the rest of the year. Our stock recommendation is likely to be maintained.
Travis Perkins ended the FY18 on a strong note. While all businesses clocked strong lfl sales growth, the key highlight was the return of Wickes (DIY banner) into positive territory. Management has guided for a stable FY19 operating profit, despite the expected higher inflationary cost pressures. We will revise our estimates upwards.
Travis Perkins conducted its Capital Markets Day last week. Although management remains confident about the company’s long-term growth fundamentals (led by the continued housing shortage in the UK and underinvestment in maintenance of ageing house stock), it sees some challenges in the short term. Put in context, the business has become quite complicated over the past few years, as the group’s expenses (driven by investments to grow the business) increased ahead of revenue in some areas. While some businesses (e.g. Contracts and Toolstation) have consistently performed well during the period, the company has been struggling in domains like Wickes, General Merchanting, etc. Even though some of this slump has been attributable to external factors (e.g. the slump in RMI activity post the Brexit referendum, formation of buying groups have made independent players more competitive vs national entities like Travis Perkins), the internal challenges have also contributed to the increased complexity / slower decision making / margin pressure / inadequate return of capital employed, etc.
THe following are the key remedial measures announced in this regard:
1. Focus on trade customers
2. Divest the Plumbing & Heating division
3. Improve the performance of Wickes’ business before reviewing other options in the medium term
4. Generate annual cost savings of £20-30m by simplifying the group business and reducing branch and distribution cost bases.
Moreover, management expects the group’s FCF to strengthen over the medium term, driven by improved earnings and lower capital expenditure.
The company posted good Q3 numbers, especially in the three merchanting businesses. However, the strong lfl momentum is likely to soften in FY19, especially in Contracts and P&H segments. All eyes are now set on 4 December 2018, the Capital Markets Day of Travis Perkins. A convincing performance turnaround plan would be the next key growth trigger in our opinion. Hence, we maintain the stock recommendation, despite the stock’s valuation being very attractive at current levels.
Travis Perkins has reported poor H1 FY18 results. Although the top-line grew strongly (+4.2% lfl growth; 5.9% in Q2 FY18), the group’s profitability came in below our as well as the street’s estimates. Group adjusted operating profit excluding property profits slumped c.12% in the period. The downfall was largely attributable to the sales mix, weaker K&B showroom sales in Wickes and higher operating costs in the General Merchanting business. The company has charged £246m goodwill impairment for the business.
Management expects challenging market conditions to persist and anticipates FY18 EBITA to come in at the lower range of analysts’ expectations (£360–390m). Also, it has commenced a comprehensive review of the Wickes business and will share details at the CMD in early December.
Travis Perkins clocked strong lfl revenue growth in Q3. The Merchanting business (General Merchanting, P&H and Contracts segment) was up 4.7% yoy, led by strong growth momentum in Contracts. However, the consumer business slowed due to a subdued performance in Wickes. The ongoing momentum in Merchanting is likely to last for a few more quarters, but macro-economic headwinds (tighter credit availability + negative real wages) should soften the growth gradually. No change in our stock recommendation.
Travis Perkins ‘TP’ reported better lfl revenue growth (2.7% vs our estimate: 1.5%) in Q2 FY17, on the back of a strong performance in Contracts (+6.4% yoy; contributed c.21% to group revenue) and Consumer divisions (+6.5% yoy; contributed c.25% to group revenue). The growth was largely driven by improved customer propositions and the benefit of recent investment in the business. The General Merchanting ‘GM’ division was up marginally (0.3% yoy; contributed c.33% to group revenue), impacted by the company’s trading stance of preserving profit margins by passing on input cost inflation. The Plumbing & Heating (P&H) division remained in the red (-1.9% yoy; contributed c.21% to group revenue), due to a continued decline in social housing demand and reduced trade with a major customer. In H1 FY17, the group’s lfl revenue was up 2.7% while reported revenue advanced by 3.5%, underpinned by the scope impact (11 Benchmarx and 24 Toolstation branches opened during the period).
Despite the stable gross margin (due to improved pricing activity to recover input cost inflation), the H1 FY17 adjusted operating profit slumped by 2.1% to £190m (in line with our estimate), impacted by a challenging P&H business (profitability down c.32%) and investment in store refitting and IT capability.
The management outlined the next leg of the transformation plan for the ailing P&H division (further details in the analysis section). It also declared an interim dividend of 15.5p per share (+1.6% yoy) and maintained the FY17 guidance – effective tax rate: 20%, capex: £170-190m, property profits: c.£20m, finance charge: comparable to FY16. The management also remains cautious on the trading performance for the remainder of the financial year, largely due to mixed macro-economic indicators.
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A number of REITs have the ability to thrive in current market conditions and thereafter. Not only do they hold assets that will remain in strong demand, but they have focus and transparency. The leases and underlying rents are structured in a manner to provide long visibility, growth and security. Hardman & Co defined an investment universe of REITs that we considered provided security and “safer harbours”. We introduced this universe with our report published in March 2019: “Secure income” REITs – Safe Harbour Available. Here, we take forward the investment case and story. We point to six REITs, in particular, where we believe the risk/reward is the most attractive.
Companies: AGY ARBB ARIX BUR CMH CLIG DNL HAYD NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RE/ RECI SCE SHED VTA
Full-year results were at a record level and slightly ahead of expectations by £0.2m at the adjusted PBT level, or 2.8% better at the EPS level. Cash generation was also stronger than expected, resulting in net cash of £3.2m. The dividend was maintained – a sign of confidence. Good strategic progress was made, helped by the integration synergies of Pacer and new product development programmes. Our forecast and price target remain under review given COVID-19-related uncertainties.
Companies: Solid State
The announcement that Avon Rubber is to sell milkrite | InterPuls, its dairy division, to DeLaval Holding for £180m gross proceeds is strategically logical and financially compelling. The fit of dairy and defence has always looked slightly anomalous and the terms of the deal show that the opportunity to augment dairy through value-accretive deals is difficult given the scale of the business and opportunities. Management must now recycle the cash balances that will be created into Avon Protection, where there are a greater number of potential investments.
Companies: Avon Rubber
Brick and concrete products manufacturer Forterra has raised c. £55m gross in an equity placing in order to maintain its strong balance sheet and support the Group's continued investment programme. It was accompanied by, in our view, a reassuring trading statement which we believe is backed by yesterday’s brick industry data and comments from housebuilders, which suggest that demand has been recovering from its lockdown lows, before the PM’s promises to “build, build, build” housing and infrastructure.
Successful K3 Capital placing to raise £30.45m (gross) at 150p to fund the £9.3m acquisition of Randd UK Ltd, an R&D tax credit specialist with an LTM EBITDA of c.£2.0m, with a margin of c.50% and revenues typically contracted for 5 tax years with many recurring thereafter, followed by future potential deals in SME exposed markets. K3 has established itself as an innovative company that is able to effectively gather, generate and mine large quantities of data in order to scale up M&A services to SMEs. Transferring these lead generation capabilities to adjacent SME markets can allow rapid growth from proven models, at scale.
Companies: K3 Capital Group
Blackbird plc* (BIRD.L, 19.25p/£64.7m) | Mirada plc* (MIRA.L, 92.5p/£8.2m) | Tern plc* (TERN.L, 10.75p/£29.0m) | Checkit plc (CKT.L, 39.5p/£24.5m)
Companies: BIRD MIRA MIRA TERN CKT
Further Profitable Growth to Come
The Norcros operating companies largely performed relatively well in challenging market conditions (in both the UK and South Africa) in FY20 though year end trading was affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, as flagged previously. The group’s financial position appears robust following management actions (including foregoing an FY20 final dividend) and well-placed to both contend with weaker near-term markets and the pursuit of market share gains from a position of relative competitive strength. Our estimates remain suspended at this time.
discoverIE reported FY20 results ahead of our forecasts for underlying operating profit and EPS. Looking through short-term COVID-19-related disruption, the company has set new strategic targets for the next five years. These are a continuation of the strategy to grow the Design & Manufacturing business organically and via acquisition and include the target to increase the group operating margin from 8.5% (pro forma) to 12.5%. We maintain our normalised operating profit and EPS forecasts.
Companies: Discoverie Group
As flagged in the April trading update, Solid State’s FY20 results showed a 19.7% growth in revenues and 34.3% jump in adjusted profit before tax. Demand from the medical and food retail sectors is strong but weakness in the oil & gas and commercial aviation sectors related to the coronavirus pandemic is likely to result in lower year-on-year sales during Q2 and early Q321. While management sees potential for a Q4 recovery, the current range of FY21 profit outcomes is wide, so it is not providing guidance.
Updating forecasts following 2019 results
Companies: Trackwise Designs
Full year results ahead - robust position against uncertain near-term backdrop
Solid State is a manufacturer of computing, power and communications products, and value added distributor of electronic components. This morning, the group has released full year results with PBT and EPS slightly better than our upwardly revised forecasts had assumed and reflecting a strong margin performance in the year. As previously flagged, cash generation was particularly strong. The group entered FY 2021E with a strong order book, which is reported to have stood at £37.9m as at 31 May 2020, an increase of some 5.6% from a year earlier. With little in the way of cancellations or deferrals of orders, Q1 2021E revenue has held up well, whilst order intake has been just under 15% lower than the prior year, which suggests a weaker revenue performance in Q2/Q3 but with the tender pipeline implying a potentially stronger Q4. Reflecting the present uncertainty, we leave our forecasts under review for the time being. Fundamentally, and backed by a strong balance sheet, we believe that Solid remains well positioned to come through the current crisis and will emerge as one of the winners when normal service resumes.
The Smart Zones customer base is expected to reopen, to a large extent, this weekend. The reopening of pubs will bring forward a revised billing profile and markedly improve the Smart Zones revenue base. Smart Machines continues to operate profitably and the group's Business Interruption Loan should buttress the balance sheet through this year. While our forecasts remain withdrawn we can see an encouraging pathway to normalised trading next year.
Companies: Vianet Group
Smart Metering Systems (SMS) has announced that it has emerged from the recent Covid-19 uncertainty in a strong financial position and taken the decision to return funds received from the Government under the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme. Current net cash of £48m (not including furlough grant) is ahead of previous expectations and underlying profitability for the year to 31 December 2020 is expected to be in line with expectations prior to lockdown, despite the obvious interruptions to meter installation activity that it has caused. During lockdown essential emergency field engineering work continued and SMS completed the sale of a proportion of its meter asset portfolio for a gross cash consideration of £291m (£282m net). In March 2020, SMS announced that it would rebase its dividend to 25p (prospective yield 4.3%), index linked to FY24 and commencing payments in October 2020, quarterly thereafter. A phased resumption to meter installation activity commenced on 1 June 2020.
Companies: Smart Metering Systems
Salt Lake Potash has received commitments to raise A$15m through the placement of unsecured zero-coupon Convertible Notes to Equatorial Resources (ASX:EQX) and institutional investors. The Convertible Notes have been structured as deferred equity with zero coupon and mandatory conversion into equity at the lower of 45c/share or a 5% discount to any future equity raising of at least A$10m. These funds will enable Salt Lake Potash to continue to develop Lake Way to the project schedule through July as they finalise debt financing. Plant practical completion and first SOP sales remain on schedule for the March 2021 quarter. The debt financing process in its final stages and with an agreement expected to be executed within weeks.
Companies: Salt Lake Potash