Frontier IP has announced it has invested £320k in a £720k convertible loan financing of Nandi Proteins. Nandi Proteins is developing functional proteins for food ingredients aimed at reducing levels of fat, additives and gluten in processed foods addressing important social, health and environmental concerns about processed food. Frontier IP holds a 20.1% equity stake in Nandi Proteins; the last disclosed value of the holding was back in July 2017 at approx. £2.9m. Connected in part to the announcement today, we have used the opportunity to refresh our cash flow forecasts to reflect the net £2.1m proceeds of the July 2020 fundraise, the planned deployment of proceeds into bridge financing and refreshed our Sum-of-the-Parts valuation analysis to reflect the excellent portfolio progress made in FY’20. We anticipate a 50% increase in the unrealised profit on the revaluation of investments in FY’20e to £5.82m (vs. £3.0m prior estimate; £3.85m in FY’19). Applying the peer group multiple of 1.6x on Yr1 Book value of late-stage assets and incorporating the £2.1m proceeds and dilution associated with the July placing, implies an intrinsic value of 82p/share, 27% above the current share.
Companies: Frontier IP Group Plc
Frontier IP has announced it has invested £50k in a £500k convertible loan financing of PulsiV. Frontier IP has a 18.9% equity holding in PulsiV, which was last valued at £0.9m on the balance sheet. Whilst the commercial terms of the loan are unknown, it is not expected to have any material difference to the balance sheet at this stage. This direct investment by the Group is in line with a wider strategy to use proceeds of the recent fundraising to support portfolio companies financially to accelerate portfolio growth. PulsiV is taking significant steps to commercialising its technology and a solar microinverter prototype developed in collaboration with Bosch is expected to move into field trials of the “Engineered by Bosch” product in the nearfuture. Funding will enable PulsiV to step up development of its technology for use in a wider range of industrial applications, at least one of which is nearer to market. The potential of the micro-inverter market is vast, estimates of the global solar inverter market ranges from $2.4bn to $7.3bn per year.* Proceeds are expected to fund the development of its technology into a wider range of industrial applications. We note that PulsiV continue to be in discussions with potential investors to raise further funding in the form of equity, an event outlined in our January initiation as a near-term catalyst for Frontier IP’s valuation of its equity holding. Frontier IP expect this equity fund raise to be at a substantial valuation premium to the current book value of PulsiV (last reported at £0.9m on Frontier IP’s balance sheet). There is no indication given as the size of any potential uplift, but any increase in the Company’s book value will be reflected in the Group’s results to 30 June 2020 financial year. If achieved it would demonstrate that positive momentum from an excellent FY’20 period has continued into the new financial year.
Frontier IP has successful completed an oversubscribed £2.3m raise with new and existing institutional shareholder support that significantly supports its balance sheet. There was also a retail offering, which will help improve liquidity in the stock. The deal gives Frontier IP the balance sheet to meet the opportunities and challenges presented by Covid19, and to accelerate growth of the portfolio and opportunities for investors. In particular this added firepower will be used to: i) expand head count and internal capacity in providing commercialisation and development services for portfolio companies, and enables the expansion of the portfolio; and ii) to use the proceeds to support portfolio companies through both bridge debt financing and direct participation in investment rounds in order to accelerate portfolio company growth and offer more support for portfolio companies financially. Frontier IP’s unaudited cash position at period ending 30 June 2020 was reported to be to be £2.97m, which is £0.5m above our estimates for the period-end, and the placing is anticipated to leaves the company with over £5.2m of cash on the balance sheet. We emphasise that significant portfolio progress has been made year-to-date since the portfolio was last valued and we expect positive momentum to continue into the second half of 2020.
The Vaccine Group (TVG; a 17% holding for Frontier IP) has announced positive progress for its novel animal Covid-19 vaccines. Two vaccine candidates of the four in development are now progressing after just eight weeks into animal testing after demonstrating in vitro expression of antigens belonging to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Additionally, TVG also disclosed it is exploring the potential use of its vaccines in humans in an intriguing development for pan-species vaccinations. Even if the current outbreak is managed, it is highly likely that animals will remain a reservoir for human reinfection or future coronavirus strains, highlighting the need for animal reservoir vaccination programme. After the substantial progress made by TVG in the last 3 months alone, it’s not surprising Frontier IP indicated a ‘material’ valuation upgrade in its holding of TVG at the reporting of FY’20 results later this year.
Exscientia has raised $60m through a Series C financing round, confirming excellent progress of Frontier IP’s most advanced portfolio holding. The pre-money valuation of Exscientia in this equity fundraising round and the value of Frontier IP’s equity holding is undisclosed. Nevertheless, this is continued progress following a good H1 performance and is supportive of the company’s rising NAV. Frontier IP has also provided a FY’20 trading update, confirming its performance remains in line with management’s expectations, and this is a positive result given the difficult market backdrop. We believe Frontier IP’s portfolio will be a net benefiter over the Covid-19 pandemic given the Group’s focus on capital efficiency, with companies with an immediate positive impact (e.g. Elute and The Vaccine Group) and indirect long term beneficiaries (Celerum, Fieldwork Robotics) offsetting those companies temporarily impacted negatively (Alusid – retail tile market paused). Overall, we view today’s announcement as positive and supportive of Frontier IP’s investment thesis, indicating that good progress continues to be made during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Companies: OMI SAR GDR TEK FIPP SCLP IOG FDEV AVCT
Companies: FIPP SOLI SML AAU POW DNL BAR CTP RENX
Today’s results are in line with our expectations, and highlight the continued progress of the portfolio, as demonstrated by a 25% increase in the portfolio fair value to £17.1m after a strong 6-month period of portfolio newsflow. This positive momentum has been maintained in 2020 and we expect to continue despite Covid-19 uncertainty, albeit potentially at a slower pace given current government measures. Needless to say that any exits achieved in 2020 should provide substantial liquidity and upside to the portfolio, regardless of the current climate. To detail the risks the Group faces, it has provided a comprehensive risk register. Nevertheless on a Group view, investors should be reassured that it remains well-capitalised with £4.0m of cash on the B/S, maintains an efficient operation with low overheads of c. £190k/month, and has implied cash runway until year-end FY2021.
In tune with the flavour of the month, The Vaccine Group (TVG; a 17% holding for Frontier IP) has announced updates on its novel animal vaccines, including the start of a research project on COVID-19, but also the validation of its technology, and the initiation of animal trials for Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and African Swine Fever (ASF). Whilst we are aware of 35 vaccines and therapies in development, this is the first one we know of targeting the animal host population. COVID-19 developments are exciting and will take the headlines, but the start of animal trials for bTB and ASF vaccines are arguably just as (if not more) important showing concrete positive progress against a well-known, quantifiable unmet need. We expect data from both programmes in mid-2020, and they could be approved and in use commercially as soon as 2022. Today’s announcement is highly encouraging for one of Frontier IP’s portfolio companies and we expect it to be treated positively by the market given the sensitivity for coronavirus related newsflow. Nevertheless, for Frontier IP at this early juncture we make no changes to our intrinsic value and look forward to further data from these programmes in due course.
Abal Group (formerly on AIM) to relist as Supply@Me, a growing innovative "inventory monetisation" platform, having originated more than EUR300m of prospective "inventory monetisation deals" in its first six months of operating (to June 2018). In the first half of 2019, an additional prospective EUR300m was originated. As at the date of the publication of the Prospectus and Circular to Abal shareholders, dated 4 March 2020 , EUR972m of prospective contracts have been originated. Raising £2.2m. Due 23 March. The Proof Of Trust has announced its intention to list on the Standard Market. The Blockchain based business, owns patents to a protocol which facilitates dispute resolution based upon smart contract disputes. Transaction details TBC.
Companies: THR NSH FIPP RBD CDM OTMP TRB ROCK REDX ANIC
Frontier IP is a unique IP commercialisation group that attains substantial equity holdings in university IP spin-outs in exchange for commercialisation services, effectively generating minority stake holdings for ‘free’. The portfolio of companies continues to make excellent progress, and we believe realisation events are on the near-term horizon that will drive an uplift in valuation and potential shareholder returns if they can be achieved.
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To achieve YoY revenue growth over H1/20A despite the challenges of Covid-19 and its impact on the travel sector is testament to Equals' resilience and increasing focus on B2B and International payments services. While weaker gross profit and EBITDA margins have impacted profitability in H1/20, we see potential for an earnings recovery in H2/20 given cost reduction measures currently being undertaken. This should lead Equals to cash breakeven in Q4/20 and FCF positive by early FY21.
Companies: Equals Group Plc
Litigation Capital Management has announced FY20 results with gross profit up 7% to A$21.7m and PBT of A$9.2m, slightly behind expectations albeit the Group had already flagged that delays to 3 cases during the year would result in resolutions in FY21, thereby impacting FY20 results. That said, excellent strategic progress through the year and good news flow as well as increasing scale suggests more value to come. Reiterate buy
Companies: Litigation Capital Management Ltd.
In June, faced with the task of replacing its longstanding portfolio manager, Alistair Mundy, Temple Bar Investment Trust’s (TMPL’s) board reiterated its commitment to a value style of investing. The board has now opted to hand the management contract to Nick Purves and Ian Lance of RWC Partners, two managers with considerable experience of managing income portfolios using a value-style approach. Value investing, where managers buy stocks that are valued more cheaply than market averages – based on measures such as price/earnings, price/book and yield – is deeply out of favour. The RWC team says that value stocks have never looked more unloved in the 30- odd years that they have been managing money. In their view, this makes it imperative that TMPL investors keep faith with the strategy and it also means this is an attractive entry point for new investors. One important change, however, is a cut to TMPL’s dividend to a level that the RWC team believes will be more sustainable.
Companies: Temple Bar Investment Trust
FY20A results largely reflect a period prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, yet show Duke entering a more challenging FY21E with momentum. Yesterday's trading update demonstrated another notable rise in quarterly cash receipts for Q2/21, as royalty partner trading continues to improve. As some partners' forbearance measures will expire this month, Q3/21 receipts should continue this upwardly momentum. This opens the door to a return to cash dividends at some future point. Today, Duke also confirms it is now seeking new royalty partners, alongside follow-ons.
Companies: Duke Royalty
HSBC’s future should be clarified as soon as the US and China come back to the negotiation table. This will not happen before the US elections are over. In the meantime, HSBC will continue to be instrumentalised and its share price will remain under pressure.
Companies: HSBC Holdings Plc
Mercia’s FY20 results reflect continued progress, delivering on management’s three-year strategy. AUM climbed 58% to £0.8bn, while FUM rose 73% to £658m. Following the acquisition of the NVM VCT fund management business, the company is operationally profitable on a monthly basis, with annual revenues exceeding operating costs for the first time in FY20. Net assets rose 12% to £141.5m, with the direct investment portfolio stalled at £87.5m reflecting the impact of COVID-19 fair value adjustments and a £15.7m net investment. The group remains well-placed for a downturn with £30m of unrestricted balance sheet cash and £320m of group cash. Post period end the group exited The Native Antigen Company, with £5.2m in cash (8.4x return, 65% IRR) expected. Despite the group’s progress, Mercia’s shares continue to trade at a material discount to NAV (0.60x), even before considering the embedded value of the third-party fund management business (> 4.5p at 3% of AUM).
Companies: Mercia Asset Management Plc
L&G reported an operating profit from continuing divisions (excluding Mature Savings and General Insurance businesses) of £1,128m, -2.2% yoy. The COVID-19-related cost was £129m. LGR posted a growing operating profit to £721m. Net profit amounted to £290m vs. £874m a year before, being affected by the reduced discount rate used to calculate LGI reserves. The Solvency II ratio stood at 173%. The Board recommended an interim dividend of 4.93p/share, stable relative to H1 19.
Companies: Legal & General Group Plc
S4 Capital had an extraordinary week with strong interims and an impressive CMD accompanied by a further merger and topped off with winning its third Whopper. Interims were ahead of our expectations and we were particularly encouraged by LFL Gross Profit growth of +18% in July. The group announced the merger with Dare.Win, an award-winning digital creative agency which extends the geographical presence of MediaMonks to France. BMW and MINI consolidated its Pan-European account into a team led by MediaMonks, which is the third whopper account for S4 Capital, and notable in our view for being won in a pitch, rather than by land & expand, and being an automotive rather than technology client. The group held a three day CMD and our summary would be i) Day One demonstrated the compelling strategic logic and strict financial discipline underpinning the group ii) Day Two illustrated the already formidable partner/client list of S4 Capital, including Adobe, Amazon, Google and CAA and iii) Day Three highlighted the chemistry between the individual agencies brought together to form S4 Capital and the outstanding work that they produce. To reflect BMW and Dare.Win we raise our FY21 EPS forecast by +8% to 10.8p (was 10.0p) and continue to view 15p as a realistic target with further whoppers in prospect and the balance of the recent equity raise to deploy. On a 30x multiple, we raise our target price to 450p (was 375p) and retain our Buy recommendation.
Companies: S4 Capital Plc
Today's news & views, plus announcements from VOD, POLY, SMDS, BLND, BYG, WEIR, DC, SNR, SHI, INTU, IHR, CNC, ARE, INCE
Companies: INTU SHI INCE
The impressive full year 2019 results included some eye-catching numbers, including a record PBT of £40.1m (nearly 3x FY18 @ £14.3m), £620m of reserves acquired over 16 legacy deals, and $842m of (estimated) Contracted Premium in the Program business – on track to breach $1bn in FY20 as previously guided and $1.5bn-$2bn in 2022-2023.
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
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.
Companies: AVO ARBB ARIX CLIG DNL GDR ICGT NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RECI STX SCE TRX SHED VTA YEW
Secular stagnation refers to the economic theory that growth will be persistently low for some time to come, due to an imbalance between savings and investment. If capital is saved rather than invested productive capacity lies idle, while the drag on consumption reduces demand in the economy. As a result GDP growth is reduced. As we have previously discussed, there is no historical evidence that GDP growth has a direct impact on stock market growth – in contradiction of the theorised linkage via earnings. However, in a world of secular stagnation in which there is a glut of savings, corporate earnings will be muted as demand for companies’ wares remains sluggish, which should negatively impact stock market growth. High rates of savings would also push equity valuations higher than they would otherwise be and thereby reduce future returns. Investors can respond to this situation in a number of ways. One is to try to find active strategies, which either seek to harness certain factors likely to boost returns or to generate high stockspecific alpha. In the first case this could mean looking to harness the small cap premium or to the emerging markets which should see greater earnings growth over the long run. It could also mean looking to the tech sector, where earnings are dependent more on secular changes within the economy than the growth rate of the economy. In the second case this would mean looking for highly active stock pickers who run concentrated portfolios and aim to pick the winning companies which can steal market share from competitors. We believe the investment trust universe is the perfect place to find such strategies, as the structure allows managers to focus on managing their strategy and not inflows and outflows, while being able to take exposure to relatively illiquid assets and harvest the premium for doing so. Another way of responding is to look for alternative assets which offer comparable or superior returns to the equity market as a whole. In our view, when we look at likely equity returns over the next ten years, some alternatives look compelling. In the below we sketch a rough idea of likely equity returns over the next decade and then introduce some trusts we think have the potential to generate similar returns from more predictable cash flows and potentially less volatile NAVs.
Companies: USF HICL NESF TRIG UKW NBLS
Activity was limited by housebuilding shutdown in H1 as a result of COVID. Sigma remained profitable and, with a strong balance sheet, has weathered the storm. With yesterday’s launch of the £1bn EQT London fund, a material step change is expected for the coming financial year. We reinstate forecasts; updating for EQT and revised expectations post-COVID. We revisit our valuation: a “sum of the parts” approach, assuming no additional AuM, implies an intrinsic value of 200p/share.
Companies: Sigma Capital Group Plc
Trident Royalties Plc (AIM: TRR) has, this morning, announced the acquisition of a 1.5% Net Smelter Royalty (NSR) over the resourcestage Lake Rebecca Gold Project located in the highly prospective Eastern Goldfields province in Western Australia. The royalty package is being acquired from a private seller for a total consideration of A$8.0 million (c. US$5.63 million), comprising of A$7.0 million in cash and A$1.0 million in new ordinary shares in Trident. The acquisition is Trident’s fifth overall and its third gold deal. As per strategic guidance the company is moving fast assembling a diversified portfolio with a paying cashflow stream from iron ore and copper production and several strategic gold royalties with the potential for near term revenues. The market is paying attention with TRR shares up 49.8% since its IPO on AIM in June this year. There is clearly more to come with c. US$7.5 million of uncommitted cash as well as the potential for debt funding and the ability to use equity as acquisition consideration. The Lake Rebecca Gold Project operated and wholly owned by Apollo Consolidated (ASX: AOP), is located 150km ENE of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields Province of the Yilgarn Craton. The Project, envisaged as a simple open pit operation, is close to existing gold infrastructure namely Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited’s (ASX: SAR) Carosue Dam Operation whose processing plant is in the process of being upgraded to increase throughput to 3.2 Mtpa.
Companies: Trident Royalties Plc
Top decile total returns continue.
Financial results. The March 2020 NAV increased by 3% to 285p, continuing the company's strong NAV record since flotation in 2016 (compound growth rate of 16% or total return CAGR of 18%). Adjusted PBT rose by 10% to £2.41m, benefiting from last August's purchase of Concorde Park in Maidenhead, partly offset by higher irrecoverable service charge costs. The final dividend of 2p gives a total of 5.3p, 16% lower than 2018/19, reflecting the Board's decision to maintain liquidity.
Investment Portfolio. 99% of the £140m portfolio is invested in regional offices, with more than 50% by income and value in business parks close to Milton Keynes, Bristol and Maidenhead most notably. We believe that high quality, well located business parks are likely to outperform in terms of rental and capital values during the COVID pandemic as tenants focus on the combination of easier transport access and the well-being of their employees.
Robust rent collection. The company has collected almost 90% of its rent roll in respect of H1/20-21, 91% in Q1 and 87% in Q2. This positive data reflects the quality of both its portfolio and its diverse tenant base. The portfolio has been individually selected, based on asset location and letting prospects, and the company's strategy is to minimise voids by letting at economic rents with minimal tenant incentives.
Forecasts. H1/20-21 has been positive in terms of rent collection but we are withholding our PBT and DPS forecasts for now. Further positive rent collection following next Tuesday's Rent Quarter day will provide additional confidence for the current year. The statement refers to the target of reducing gearing by selling assets where significant value has been added – sales at close to Savills latest valuation will provide confidence in the robustness of the NAV.
Share Valuation. The shares are trading on a 48% discount to NAV yielding 3.6%. Regional REIT and Palace Capital are peer companies which focus primarily on regional offices and both have reported NAV falls in their most recent results, yet trade on lower NAV discounts (but with higher yields and greater liquidity). Circle shares look undervalued, trading just below their IPO price despite a near doubling of NAV since early 2016.
Companies: Circle Property Plc