See what's trending this week...
City law firm Rosenblatt reported in the press to be considering a London listing. The commercial firm had a reported revenue of £16m in 2017
VR Education Holdings—a virtual reality software and technology company. Raising £6m at 10p, mkt cap £19.3. Due 12 March
SimplyBiz, a Financial Services Firm, reported to be considering an IPO targeting a market capitalisation of between £140m and £155m in a listing that would raise £30m of new money.
Bacanora Lithium—Readmission. No new money. Mkt cap £140m. Due 21 March. the new holding company for Bacanora Minerals Ltd
Core Industrial REIT—established to invest in Irish-based industrial properties, predominantly located in the Greater Dublin Area. Vendor placing and new funds to a total of €225m, Target gross proceeds €207m. Expected Mid March
Polarean - Medical drug-device combination company operating in the high resolution medical imaging market. Offer TBC. Due Early March
Block Energy—a NEX Listed UK based oil exploration and production company whose main country of operation is the Republic of Georgia, looks to join AIM end of February 2018. Offer TBC
Companies: OPTI SSTY CMS DGOC CPT FIH AGM TERN GMAA
Like its peers, Communisis is managing a structural transition from the analogue to digital world. This process has not been without its challenges. However, the proof is in the pudding and the performance over the last four years has been impressive. Despite the headlines surrounding declines in traditional print marketing; revenue and profit have grown consistently as has cash generation. The net result is a balance sheet that is de-gearing and a clear path to further improving the overall business mix. Communisis has a particularly strong track record when it comes to winning and retaining high value, multi-year contracts which speaks volumes for the credibility and the breadth of the proposition. The progress made has seen the shares re-rate significantly as investors have sharpened their focus on the returns latent within the business. An attractive, and well covered, dividend yield is the icing on the cake.
Since our first quarterly at the end of 2015, 12 of the 59 companies we included in our valuation tables have been bid for. Given those tables were simply designed to show the range of companies present within the sector, not a hit-list of undervalued opportunities, the fact that 20% of them have been taken over is worth looking at in more detail. At a time when warnings and share price collapses from the likes of Interserve, Carillion, MITIE, DX and Capita and Serco have dominated newsflow, it should be remembered that the sector is broad and highly varied both in terms of business model and performance. If the troubles of a minority of the sector drag down wider valuations then the evidence is that there is an army of potential bidders (reinforced by the weakness of sterling) ready to take advantage.
Companies: FOUR DSCV BOOT CLL CMS CNCT FCRM LOK PPH RNWH STAF UTW WATR VANL WYG SVCA
See what was trending this week...
WYG (WYG): Supporting infrastructure, economies and communities (BUY) | Shanta Gold (SHG): Chief Executive and Director change (U/R) | Communisis (CMS): Debt reducing and a solid earnings performance (BUY)
Companies: WYG SHG CMS
In light of the UK election, we highlight our favoured overseas earners, operators in defensive markets and those capable of taking market share, but our main topic is the structure of the UK employment market. The UK has the lowest unemployment rate since 1975 at 4.6%, and there are, consequently, fewer and fewer candidates to fill vacancies. This suggests recruitment companies may struggle to grow, but there are structural changes in the UK labour force that offer growth opportunities. Temporary labour continues to expand relative to the point in the economic cycle, its importance accelerating since 2008, and part-time labour has grown at twice the rate of full-time labour throughout both the last cycle and over the long term. There are, of course, specialist temporary recruiters, but the part-time market appears relatively untapped (at least by the quoted companies) despite being c.5x the size of the temporary segment in terms of numbers.
Companies: FOUR DSCV BOOT CLL CMS CNCT FCRM LOK PPH RNWH STAF UTW WATR SVCA
We have run our new quantitative Slide Rule over the Support Services sector. Of the c.500 stocks we have ranked on a Quality, Value, Growth and Momentum basis in the small to mid-cap space, 21 Support Services stocks appear in the top 100. Fulcrum leads the pack, ranked no. 6 out of 500 (and not coincidentally our top pick for the year), closely followed by Brainjuicer (no.7), Sanne (no.8), Learning Technologies (no. 12) and Next Fifteen (no.16). These stocks have high ROCE on both an EBIT and cash basis, strong growth prospects, earnings and share price momentum and valuations that, in this context, remain attractive. At the other end of the spectrum, HSS, Management Consulting, Serco, Mitie and Lakehouse appear towards the bottom of the rankings. Strong returns could, of course, be made if any of these turn their fortunes around, and management has been changed at Lakehouse, Serco and Mitie.
Companies: FOUR DSCV CLL CMS CNCT FCRM LOK PPH RNWH STAF UTW WATR SVCA
STM* (STM): Budget victim (CORP) | Communisis (CMS): Structural change in customer communication (BUY)
Companies: STM Group Communisis
Chariot Oil & Gas* (CHAR): Pre-close operational update (CORP) | Sound Energy (SOU): Drilling update (BUY) | Communisis (CMS): Significant contract win (BUY) | Mattioli Woods (MTW): Quality will out (HOLD)
Companies: CHAR SOU CMS MTW
Following on from our last quarterly we have delved further into the potential and challenges that the Internet of Things present the sector. Having spoken to a wide variety of companies from the sector (large and small, UK and overseas) it is apparent that there is going to be a very significant increase in the amount of data either generated by or available to Support Service companies. The key to generating value from this change will be breaking down the silos in which data is currently held, attracting and investing in the right skills and talent, seeing beyond the short-term investment that is likely to be needed and engaging with clients on a higher, more strategic level. If the sector doesn’t react, then the door is wide open for the Technology sector.
Companies: FOUR DSCV CLL CMS CNCT CHT FCRM LOK PPH STAF UTW
Zambeef* (ZAM): Transformational deal with CDC (CORP) | Aggregated Micro Power* (AMPH): Fundraising and acquisitions (CORP) | Lok’nStore* (LOK): Low-cost, high-quality growth (CORP) | Communisis (CMS): Margins rising, debt falling, confidence in the full year (BUY) | ServicePower* (SVR): Positive trading update (CORP)
Companies: ZAM AMPH LOK CMS SVR
A significant proportion of the Support Services industry is characterised by regular, scheduled visits driven by fear that something might be about to go wrong. Maintenance schedules by Facilities Managers or visits by Home Carers for example. An entire cost base dedicated to continuously rotating skills around a client base (preventative) sits alongside another cost base focused on fixing a problem when the safety net fails (reactive). But what if you could tell that a part is about to fail or a particular service is about to be needed (predictive)? The Internet of Things holds enormous potential for the Support Services sector. Those fleets of white vans that currently monotonously tour clients will only be seen when they are on-route to a specific need, laden with precisely the right part.
Companies: FOUR DSCV CMS CNCT CHT LOK PPH STAF UTW
Bioventix*: FY 2017 forecasts and long-term assessment (CORP) | Communisis: Communication experts (BUY) | Keywords Studios: Prelims – pressing ahead (BUY) | Central Asia Metals: Q1 operating results (BUY) | Europa Oil & Gas*: Interim results (CORP)
Companies: BVXP CMS KWS CAML EOG
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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
Successful businesses ‘never let a crisis go to waste’. Indeed since an otherwise strong Q1’20 was interrupted by COVID-19, Mpac has further streamlined operations, accelerated R&D and launched new remote equipment diagnostic/acceptance testing, virtual reality & other ‘Industry 4.0’ services.
RBG Holdings pre-close trading update to June 30th confirms a strong H1 performance for RBL, the Group’s law firm, with revenues up 36% like-for-like to c.£11.4m YoY. Convex, the CF boutique, understandably has faced COVID headwinds, with most of its H1 pipeline deferred indefinitely, whilst Litigation Finance continues to grow its pipeline and financing commitments on a longer term view. Due to continued uncertainty from COVID we withdraw our forecasts this morning, with a view to reinstating once more clarity on H1 outturn and momentum into H2 is available.
Companies: Rosenblatt Group
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
Resilient Trading Update
Companies: Macfarlane Group
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.
Revenue for FY 2020 is ahead of expectation and we adjust our forecast accordingly. Sales are growing at an impressive rate; >50% pa despite COVID-19 and the virus had no effect on the company’s ability to deliver projects with 23 new customers live in Q4. We note COVID concerns are causing some delay on contract decisions, and sales would have been even stronger but for that. These delays do lead to caution on FY 2021, and we ease back our forecasts on more prudent management guidance. However, with the recent £5m equity placing, PCIP has plenty of cash to continue to invest in rolling out its exciting secure payments proposition. This cloud-based solution can be deployed remotely and assists call centres in moving agents to WFH and still collect payments securely. The outlook remains very bright with continued rapid growth expected.
Companies: PCI Pal
The year-end trading update was encouraging, with expected results showing good YoY growth, modestly below but close to our earlier expectations. Trading has been resilient, particularly in safety critical areas such as its nuclear exposure, with some weakness being seen in oil & gas, where there is limited exposure. Two new contract wins in the nuclear sector have also been announced today. FY 2021 forecasts remain under review. With strong finances, the company is well positioned to maximise M&A opportunities, through its PIE strategy.
The group has issued a trading update for the year ended 31 May 2020 highlighting an adjusted EBITDA of at least £11.5m which is close to the group’s original expectation, despite widespread disruption to operations in the second half. The statement notes ample liquidity headroom in excess of £10m with net debt (excluding IFRS 16 lease liabilities) reducing in H2 to £7.5m as planned. The Group’s order book and prospect pipeline remains strong overall and the update is accompanied by the announcement of two meaningful contract wins in the nuclear sector. A further significant positive development is the grant of outline planning permission for the conversion of the group’s 7 acre Hayward Tyler site in Luton into residential housing for up to 1000 dwellings. Whilst financial guidance for FY2021E remains withdrawn at this point due to on-going uncertainties around the impact of COVID-19, we see the group continuing to demonstrate good resilience, operating at close to normal levels, supported by exposure to multiple markets and a strong customer base that includes governments and their agents.
Marlowe delivered a strong performance during FY20A, with +7% organic revenue growth, and improved Adj EBITDA margins. Integration of acquisitions is progressing well, and with receipt of c£40m gross proceeds, Marlowe is well placed to accelerate the consolidation of its markets. We leave our forecasts unchanged and reaffirm our Buy rating.
Caledonia's Q2 2020 production from its 64% owned Blanket mine in Zimbabwe was 13.5koz gold. This was an increase over the same period last year of 6.2%, leaving Caledonia with a first half production of 27.7koz – well ahead of this time last year (24.7koz) and on track to meet its 2020 full year guidance of 53-56koz (WHI etc. 55.5koz).
Spectra Systems Corporation is a provider of machine-readable high-speed banknote authentication, brand protection technologies and gaming security software. The company has announced that it has executed a new contract with a major world central bank to ‘enhance existing authentication sensors to detect a unique type of counterfeit notes'.
Companies: Spectra Systems Caledonia Mining Corporation Plc Com Shs Npv
Scotland’s only quoted housebuilder recorded its highest ever weekly number of reservations following the reopening of its sales offices after the prolonged construction lockdown north of the border. As a result, Q1 2021 sales are expected to be “significantly higher” Y/Y, after the inevitable disruption caused by Covid. In this morning’s FY 2020 trading update, the Group also highlighted the widely reported trend across the housing market to larger homes with gardens, Springfield’s ‘sweet spot’ in our view.
Companies: Springfield Properties
Strong H1 results, prospects good, investing in the future WEY's H1 results this morning reflect both the positive effect of proactive actions taken by the company last year and strong demand from the market at large. Sales up 43% YoY and PBTA of
£0.3m (2019: £0.1m) reflect increases across both sides of WEY's business and are accompanied by margin uplift (62% gross margin as against 56% last year). The company is a well-established leading supplier of online education, having built a 15-year track record of excellence in its sphere. Covering the half year ending on February 29th, the period of the results precedes the lockdown; however this morning's statement lays out the heightened demand for WEY's product which is an inevitable result of the new focus on remote working and online learning. WEY is plainly extremely well-placed to grow in the current environment, and it has made significant investments in educational quality and in marketing – in both cases including senior and wellrespected hires. The Covid-19 crisis has generated a new appreciation of online education from parents, pupils and educational authorities, who increasingly see this as a real, practical and highly effective substitute for traditional education, adding to the already strong demand across
WEY's brands. Our 30p-plus fair value assessment rests on the inherent opportunities and is also supported by the strong balance sheet (£6.6m of net cash, +£1.6m in the period).
Companies: Wey Education
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.
ECSC Group plc* (ECSC.L, 71.5p/£7.2m) | Trackwise Designs plc (TWD.L, 90.5p/£20.0m) | Transense Technologies plc (TRT.L, 59.5p/£9.7m)
Companies: ECSC Group Trackwise Designs