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Small cap award winners 2018
Company of the year
ZOO Digital (ZOO)
The ZOO Digital share price is ten times the level it was one year ago. ZOO localises film and television content and it has been investing in upgrading its technology and services over the past few years. This investment is paying off and the ability to offer cloud-based services is helping the business to grow and move into profit. Hollywood studios have been customers for many years and ZOO is winning market share. Newer entrants to the market such as Netflix have grown the demand for localisation of content. ZOO is expected to report an underlying pre-tax profit of £500,000 for the year to March 2018.
NEX company of the year
Crossword Cybersecurity (CCS)
Cyber security technology developer Crossword Cybersecurity originally floated on GXG and then switched to NEX. It was one of the youngest companies that was on the shortlist for this award. Crossword is generating modest revenues and it is developing cyber security products with partners. The real potential for the business will not be realised for a few years.
Impact company of the year
Walls and Futures REIT (WAFR)
Walls & Futures REIT is an ethical housing REIT that develops new housing for people with learning and physical disabilities or requiring extra care. In 2017, Walls and Futures achieved a total return on its portfolio of 11.5%, ahead of its benchmark total return of 7%.
IPO of the year
K3 Capital (K3C)
Business sales and corporate finance company K3 Capital Group joined AIM at 95p a share in April 2017 and the share price has more than trebled. Bolton-based K3 helps owners to sell their businesses and it gains clients through a direct marketing strategy. The AIM quotation and the related higher profile appears to have helped to accelerate growth. A move up the Thomson Reuters deal rankings is also helping. Last year, revenues rose by 26% to £10.8m, while pre-tax profit improved 18% to £3.6m. In the six months to November 2017, revenues were 34% ahead at £7.5m and pre-tax profit moved from £2.48m to £3.21m.
Fintech company of the year
FAIRFX Group (FFX)
Foreign exchange and e-banking services provider FAIRFX has a low cost model while offering an improved experience to the more established rivals. Turnover was £1.1bn last year, while revenues were £15.5m and this enable the company to move into profit. Corporate turnover was 52.3% of the total, up from 45.5%. The company recently moved its international payments book onto the City Forex platform following its acquisition. The focus is increasing scale to improve efficiency combined with the rolling out of new products.
Transaction of the year
Proactis (PHD) – merger with Perfect Commerce
Spend control software provider Proactis merged with Perfect Commerce in August 2017. The deal significantly increased the scope of the business and added to the management team. The integration of the businesses appears to be going well but the loss of a couple of large customers has held back progress in the year to July 2018. Even so, annualised contracted revenues are still £45.5m. Progressive Equity Research still expects a near-doubling of this year’s pre-tax profit to £10.2m, rising to £13.2m next year. That means that earnings per share growth is modest this year because of the additional shares in issue.
Executive director of the year
Bobby Kalar – Yu Group (YU.)
Electricity and gas supplier Yu Group floated on AIM in March 2016 at 185p a share. The current share price is more than four times that level. The focus is on commercial customers. Yu increased its revenues from £16.3m to £47m last year and annualised bookings continue to grow. Underlying pre-tax profit jumped from £195,000 to £3.08m. The dividend was increased from 2.25p to 3p a share. Trading continues to be strong and average annualised bookings per month were £6.6m. The cash pile has increased to £18.6m at the end of April 2018. Yu has obtained a licence to supply water.
Journalist of the year
Paul Scott – Stockopedia
Fund manager of the year
Nick Williamson – Old Mutual
Microcap fund manager of the year
Guy Feld – Canaccord Genuity
Analyst of the year
Kevin Ashton – Cantor Fitzgerald
Lifetime achievement award
Katie Potts – Herald Investment Management
Special services to small caps
John Jenkins (Founder of Ofex/NEX)
Daniel Thwaites (THW) increased its 2017-18 by 9% to £92.2m, while operating profit improved by 7% to £12.9m. There was a 79% increase in earnings per share to 13.8p, mainly due to a swing from a loss on interest swaps to a profit. The total dividend is unchanged at 4.46p a share. Investment in the pubs and hotels operations and in the new craft brewery at Mellor Brook has led to a rise in net debt from £47.6m to £63.7m. The old brewery will be demolished and the land will eventually be sold or developed. Poor weather means that the new financial year has started more slowly than last year.
Hellenic Capital has changed its name to Pelican House Mining (PHM) and is focusing on investing in early-stage resources projects in Africa. The focus is making capital gains on the investments. Pelican is trying to supplement its cash resources by selling a commercial property in Leeds, but the buyer withdrew. Pelican has retained the deposit. The investment property in Leeds is in the books at £204,000. Two directors, Simon Grant-Rennick and Mark Jackson, have been granted options over a total of seven million shares exercisable at 0.55p each.
Newbury Racecourse (NYR) says that its conference and events division is 22% ahead of the same time last year and the revenues of the hotel have risen by the same percentage. There has been a 17% rise in revenues for the nursery business on the back of occupancy rates rising by six percentage points. There are longer-term worries about the financial ability of bookies to provide sponsorship and other revenues. Management says it will not be paying any dividends until 2022 at the earliest after the current development projects are completed.
PCG Entertainment (PCGE) has raised £303,000 at 0.15p a share and around £119,000 will go towards paying the £119,000 settlement with D-Beta, which provided an equity sharing facility. D-Beta has sold its existing stake. PCG is talking to Cavitation Solutions Ltd about distributing cavitation technology, which deals with oil and other water pollutants, in China. It is also talking to ChainZy about distributing its blockchain-based technology in Asia. There is interest from third parties concerning the use of PCG’s media and gambling licences in China.
IMC Exploration (IMCP) has raised £250,000 at 0.7p a share and the cash will be used to develop the company’s three main gold and zinc projects.
South Africa-focused investment company Inqo Investments Ltd (INQO) has made a second investment in Uganda-based Four-One Financial Services, which manages the Mazima micro-pension scheme. This is the second tranche of the original investment and is in the form of a $100,000 convertible loan.
NWF (NWF) says that last year’s trading was much better than expected and net debt is lower than forecast. The feeds business improved its performance and trading of the fuels division was strong. The food distribution operations wee hit by reorganisation requirements and did not perform as well as expected.
Diversified Gas and Oil (DGOC) has got another large deal on the blocks and trading in the shares has been suspended. The Appalachian Basin oil and gas producing assets will be acquired for $575m and it will more than double the group’s daily production. This should be an earnings enhancing deal. A $225m share placing is required to help finance the deal.
RedstoneConnect (REDS) chief executive Mark Braund intends to leave the smart buildings technology company. Frank Beechinor will move from chairman to chief executive. The disposal of the systems integration and managed services divisions has been completed and the group can focus on its software business.
Ilika (IKA) has gained government funding of £4.1m for two battery technology projects in the automotive sector. The PowerDriveLine project is developing a solid state battery for hybrid and electric vehicles. The other project is headed by McLaren Automotive and is developing a battery for performance cars.
Secure payment products provider Eckoh (ECK) increased its full year revenues by 3% to £30m but pre-tax profit was 61% higher at £2.4m thanks to an improvement in operating margin. Growth in the US made up for a weaker contribution in the UK.
Redhall Group (RHL) slumped back into loss in the first half due to a delayed contract. However, it is still on course to make an improved profit in the full year. Interim revenues were 22% lower at £14.7m. There is strong demand for the company’s specialist doors from the nuclear and transport sectors.
Evgen Pharma (EVG) has enough cash to get to the end of 2018. There should be further positive news about the two ongoing clinical trials prior to the end of the year. Interim analysis of phase II trial of SFX-01 as a treatment for breast cancer show that six out of 20 patients, who had tumours that had initially responded to treatment but had become resistant, saw some benefit from the treatment of their tumours. The treatment has also been shown to be safe. The final results of the trial should be published before the end of the year.
Life sciences company Abzena (ABZA) has decided to focus on monetising its technology rather than raising money via a share issue. A non-binding heads of agreement with a third party would involve the sale of an interest in future royalties. If this deal is completed there would be enough working capital for the short-term.
Active Energy Group (AEG) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Young Living Farms for the sale of a PeatSwitch plant, which makes environmentally friendly peat replacements. The first plant is in Mona, Utah and the client is paying $3.4m in cash. There could subsequently be other plants at the client’s other sites.
Trading has resumed in the shares of Audioboom (BOOM) following publication of its accounts. The share price fell from 3.6p to 2.18p. The podcasts publisher has raised £4.5m from a placing at 3p a share.
WideCells Group (WDC) managed to raise £513,000 at 3p a share via a bookbuild on the Teathers app. That includes £183,000 from directors. The total amount raised by the stem cell services provider is £2.04m, including conversion of debt of £165,000. Shareholder approval is required for the share issue.Trading in the shares has resumed and the share price has fallen below the placing price. WideCells is using £615,000 of its £624,500 overdraft, which will be reviewed at the end of June. Shareholders have loaned £120,000.
China-based Gamfook Jewellery is planning to join the standard list. The online retailer customised jewellery wants to raise £5m in order to invest in retail sites. Gamfook has managed to generate cash from operating activities in the past few years, although next year there will be a significant working capital outflow according to forecasts. Gamfook is offering an 8.5% yield on its potential placing price of 15p a share and that would rise to 12.5% in 2019.
Air Partner (AIR) has completed its accounting review and the net assets overstatement of £4m net of tax is in line with indications. There were accounting errors and subsequent attempts to cover up the problems going back to 2010. The review has cost £1.3m. Air Partner still intends to pay a final dividend of 3.8p a share.
BATM (BVC) has won a $3m follow-on cyber security for a government department. The total contract value will be $7m.
Falcon Media House (FAL) has raised £500,000 via a convertible loan note issue. The conversion price is 1.5p a share.
Cash shell AIQ Ltd (AIQ) has raised £250,000 from an oversubscribed open offer at 20p a share but there was a delay of one day before the shares were admitted to trading on 14 June. The share price has slumped from a high of 160p to 24.5p over the past month.
Dukemount Capital (DKE) has agreed a 30-year lease on a second property in north west England. Housing association Inclusion Housing is paying £168,740 a year for the lease subject to planning permission for extra rooms. The property needs to be refurbished.
Bluebird Merchant Ventures Ltd (BMV) has executed the 50/50 joint venture agreement with Southern Gold for the Kochang mine and the feasibility report is expected before the end of September. The required $500,000 investment has nearly been completed by Bluebird and it is on course to invest the required $250,000 in Southern Gold. First gold is expected before the end of 2019.
Barclays BARC has now been charged by the Serious Fraud Office with an additional charge to that which was brought against it in June 2017 but this time relating to the loan itself rather than simply an allegation of providing unlawful financial assistance in 2008. It will be interesting to see who comes out of it worst, Barclays or the SFO whose reputation for competent and skilful prosecuting is hardly of the highest.
Lok’ n Store Group LOK enjoyed strong trading during the first half year to the 31st January. January produced the highest ever levelof new monthly storage sales. First half like for like revenue rose by 6.9%, self storage occupancy as at 31st January was up by 6% and price per sq. foot let was up by 0.4% compared to year ago. Trading at the new stores which have been opened is claimed to have been excellent.
Sosander SOS delivered a strong performance in December and January with net revenue having exceeded management expectations. Over Xmas and the New Year there were multiple sell outs on a number of products, generating large waiting lists which have been satisfied by repeat orders.
Proteome Sciences PRM Unaudited revenues for the year to the 31st December rose by 18%, whilst at the same time, costs fell by 5% and the order book strengthened. Re organisation in the first half led to a stronger performance in the fourth quarter with robust and increasing demand. Despite that progress has been lower than management would have wished for and the company is still loss making although the loss is expected to hve been reduced from £ 2.9m to £ 2.1m.
Proxama PROX delivered a 75% rise in revenue during the year to the 31st December, accompanied by a significant reduction in costs led by a large fall from 60 to 23 in the number of employees. The directors expect to see a fall of at least 50% in costs for the full year. A new management team was appointed during the year giving the company a lean expert team with the right skills and the lowest ever cost base.
Proactis Holdings PHD expects to report a 123% rise in revenue for the six months to the 31st Januay and a rise of 183% in adjusted EBITDA. This surge follows the acquisition at the beginning of August of Perfect Commerce LLC which contributed 50% of the total revenue for the half year. The company is also on target to produce the £5m. of synergies expected for the full year.
BHP Billiton BHP benefited in 2017 from a substantial reduction in exceptional losses which fell from $6.4b in 2016 to $842m. as the Samarco dam failure in Brazil weighed less heavily on the company. The year to the 30th June turned out to be a very strong financial year with free cash flow at $12.b., the second highest on record and net debt down by 37%. On an underlying basis, EBITDA rise by 64%, basic earnings per share by 455% and attributable profit multiplied from $1.2b to $6.7b. Having laid the foundations over the past five years to improve return on capital and grow shareholder value, the momentum will continue into 2018 with volume growth of 7% expected, as well as further productivity gains.
Accordingly shareholders receive their reward with dividends for the year increased by 177% to a total of 83 cents per share.
Wood Group (John) plc WG had a mix of both robust and weaker performances across its businesses in the 6 months to the 30th June. Total revenue declined by 11% but profit was down by 86% and basic earnings per share by 89.0%. The interim dividend is increased cautiously by 3%.
Empresario Group EMR produced a record first half performance with revenue rising by 50% at constant exchange rates and adjusted profit before tax up by 24% or 12% at constant exchange rates. The company has successfully integrated its two acquisitions into the business and see them both offering further opportunities for growth.
Sareum Holdings SAR expects that profit for the year to 30th June and cash at the bank will be ahead of market expectation.
Proactis Holdings plc PHD expects to see a 31% rise in revenue for the year to 31st July, with EBITDA up 43% and profit before tax rising from 3.1m to 5.3m
Quantum Pharma plc QP Revenue for the half year to the 31st July rose by 13% following a strong performance from Niche Pharmaceuticals. Adjusted EBITDA rose by 23% and statutory operating prfit by 74% whilst net debt halved to 11.9m.