Author Archives: Maynard Paton

Tasty: Radical Management Action Urgently Required As Estimated Pandemic Cash Burn Could Leave Company Broke By November

01 July 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for Tasty (TAST):

  • Largely redundant annual figures that revealed revenue down 6% and another operating loss.
  • TAST’s 56 restaurants were shut in March and my estimates suggest the group could survive without sales until November.
  • The second half seemed encouraging after Christmas bookings were helped by a turkey-themed festive menu.
  • A £2m property disposal bolstered cash and cleared debt but significant liabilities remain.
  • The £2.8m market cap could be a bargain, but radical management action is now essential to keep the business afloat. I continue to hold.
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Q2 2020: 10 Lessons From A 10-Bagger

30 June 2020
By Maynard Paton

I trust your shares have recovered during the last three months.

A quick summary of my portfolio’s second-quarter and year-to-date progress:

  • Q2 gain: +7.8%*
  • Q2 trades: None.
  • YTD loss: -0.9%* (FTSE 100: -16.9%**)
  • YTD winners/losers: 3 winners vs 9 losers  

(*Performance calculated using quoted bid prices and includes all dealing costs, withholding taxes, broker-account fees and paid dividends. **Includes reinvested dividends)

I am thankful the news from my shares during Q2 was relatively positive. In particular, four of my holdings declared dividends — which seems encouraging given the numerous payout suspensions witnessed of late. 

Mind you, I did not escape the dividend cancellations entirely. One of my shares sadly scrapped its payout after admitting the pandemic had led to weaker sales and operating losses.

Just how the market will fare from here is impossible to say. I did not buy during the March lows and remain 25% in cash… so I am naturally hoping the bargains have not dried up just yet!

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Andrews Sykes: FY 2019 Results Admit 50% Of UK Staff Are Furloughed Although Management Talks Of “Resilient” Trading And Even Declared A Final Dividend

16 June 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for Andrews Sykes (ASY):

  • Creditable full-year figures that showed revenue down 2% and profit down 7% due to less extreme weather. 
  • The decision to furlough 50% of UK staff feels odd given management talks of “resilient” trading, kept company depots open during lockdown and has declared a final dividend.
  • A commendable cash flow projection raises pandemic-profitability questions but suggests extra funding is not needed.
  • An impressive second half ensured the accounts remained healthy with high margins and an appealing return on equity.  
  • A possible P/E of 12-14 and yield of 4.5% does not seem expensive if indeed ASY does “return to normal levels of trading” for 2021. I continue to hold.
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[SharePad] Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: Frontier Developments

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11 June 2020
By Maynard Paton

Has the market become too obsessed with ‘pandemic-proof’ shares?

I ask because my SharePad screening has brought Frontier Developments to my attention.

The shares of this computer-game developer have leapt 66% so far this year as industry sales rally during the lockdown.

However, Frontier’s accounting looks rather questionable and the near-£800 million market cap seems completely mad. Yet nobody seems to mind given the company’s apparent resilience to Covid-19.

Read my full Frontier Developments article for SharePad.

Maynard Paton

PS: I have also compared Frontier’s accounting to that of Team17 and Codemasters.

M Winkworth: Q1 2020 Dividend Overshadows Foxtons-Beating 2019 Figures And Hints At Better-Than-Expected Pandemic Progress

31 May 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for M Winkworth (WINK):

  • Acceptable full-year figures that showed revenue up 8% and profit up 12% following an encouraging second half.
  • The declaration of a Q1 dividend for 2020 implies possible resilience to Covid-19 and hints at a better-than-expected pandemic performance.
  • Very impressive market-share gains continue to be won from London rival Foxtons.
  • Despite a number of accounting niggles, the books remain in pretty good shape with high margins and net cash.
  • A possible P/E of 8-12 and a potential income of 6% may offer upside should earnings revive and then one day thrive following Brexit, stamp-duty changes and Covid-19. I continue to hold.
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FW Thorpe: Immediate Covid-19 Problems Prevented After £47m Net Cash Allows 2% H1 Dividend Lift And Commendable Refusal Of Government Assistance

18 May 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for FW Thorpe (TFW):

  • Acceptable 7-9% first-half growth, although profitability has essentially stalled for the last 2-3 years as the LED mini-boom subsides.
  • A 2% dividend lift, net cash and investments of £47m, a “strong” order book plus an outstanding response to government assistance do not imply immediate Covid-19 problems.
  • However, trading is not perfect, as margins at the largest division continue to decline while overseas cross-selling progress remains slow and small. 
  • The SmartScan light-monitoring system could be a ‘hidden gem’, with sales up 50% last year to represent 20% of total revenue.
  • A P/E of 22-25 feels warm, but may reflect the ‘pandemic-proof’ balance sheet, SmartScan potential and/or resilient profit history. I continue to hold.
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[SharePad] Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: Hikma Pharmaceuticals

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14 May 2020
By Maynard Paton

One way to invest during the pandemic is to consider shares that have climbed higher as the market has dropped.

Such companies may well be ‘safe havens’ — businesses that are coping well with the lockdown, or perhaps even benefitting from the crisis.

I applied the following simple criteria within SharePad to identify potential ‘pandemic-proof’ names:

  • A share-price change this year of 0% or more;
  • A market cap of £250 million or more, and;
  • A profit of £1m or more.

On my shortlist was Hikma Pharmaceuticals, which has rallied 17% so far this year. Other attractions included:

  • An appealing 22% margin and 19% return on equity;
  • Profit being twice the level of debt;
  • A forecast 18x P/E not appearing too extreme, and;
  • The directors owning a useful shareholding.

Read my full Hikma Pharmaceuticals article for SharePad.

Maynard Paton

Bioventix: 34x P/E Understandably Reflects ‘Pandemic-Proof’ Outlook As H1 Dividend Lifted 20% And Margins Hit 80%

01 May 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for Bioventix (BVXP):

  • Very satisfactory 26% first-half profit growth led by continued demand for the group’s vitamin D antibody.
  • A 20% dividend lift alongside presentation references to broker forecasts were very reassuring given the current Covid-19 uncertainty.
  • The fledgling troponin product seems to have gained momentum while an emerging pollution-biomonitoring project offers intriguing long-term potential.
  • Despite a part-time FD and an accounting error, the books remain in excellent shape with terrific 80% margins, a notable cash buffer and no debt.
  • The seemingly ‘pandemic-proof’ outlook leaves the valuation remaining understandably rich with an underlying P/E of 34. I continue to hold.
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S & U: Final 2020 Dividend And No Furloughed Staff Underline Management Confidence Of ‘Non-Prime’ Customers Repaying Loans Totalling £302m

19 April 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for S & U (SUS):

  • Another set of record annual figures that showed steady progress — albeit overshadowed entirely by the potential impact of Covid-19.
  • The boardroom’s confidence is encouraging. The final dividend was reduced only slightly and no staff have been furloughed.
  • Some £302m has been loaned to customers with patchy credit histories, and recouping that money has become vital. Management says collections are “very good”.
  • Net debt of £118m and a 26% net-interest margin lead to respectable returns on capital, but the borrowings will not prove ideal if defaults increase and profits fall.
  • Current-year earnings have become anyone’s guess, and a bargain-basement P/E may be rather less than the current 10x trailing multiple. I continue to hold.
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[SharePad] Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: A Covid-19 Special

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08 April 2020
By Maynard Paton

I have just applied a new SharePad screen to seek ‘quality bargains’ amid the market chaos — and sadly the results were not that inspiring.

The problem is nothing to do with me or my filters or SharePad. Instead, the Covid-19 crisis has turned so many companies upside down…

…that trying to identify dependable shares right now is not exactly straightforward.

But fear not! To make amends, I have run through my previous SharePad articles — and highlighted some interesting names for your consideration.

Read my full Covid-19 Special article for SharePad.

Maynard Paton

Mincon: Muddled 2019 Figures Reveal Profit Down 28% But All May Be Forgiven If The Maintained Dividend Signals A Resilience To Covid-19

08 April 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for Mincon (MCON):

  • A rather muddled and subdued update, the highlight of which during the present Covid-19 uncertainty was a maintained dividend.
  • Impairments, exceptionals, accounting quirks and profit diving 28% may all be forgiven if, as seems to be the case, operations have not been too affected by the pandemic.
  • An emphasis on “geotechnical” drills and lack of “challenger model” references imply new priorities as the business remains in a ‘moat-digging’ phase.
  • Appealing management remarks about product quality, patents and future innovation have yet to make any impact on the somewhat messy financials.
  • A post-results acquisition leaves the business with net debt while the underlying P/E of 16 is not an obvious bargain. I continue to hold.
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Q1 2020: 1 Sell, 1 Top-Up And An Emergency Portfolio Review

31 March 2020
By Maynard Paton

I always like to start my quarterly portfolio reviews with a happy welcome. But not this time.

The country faces a national emergency. Lives are at risk, supermarkets have empty shelves, jobs are being lost…and the finer points of individual shares no longer seem that important.

I have nonetheless decided to maintain this blog through these difficult times — although future posts may be sporadic.

I hope you will find my updates useful. One day I will look back at what I have published to remember how I coped (or not!) with the crisis. I may even emerge from these events a much wiser investor.

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City of London Investment: Market Crash Pushes Yield To 9% After Positive H1 Results Show 11% Dividend Lift And Potential To Maintain Payout

23 March 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for City of London Investment (CLIG):

  • Funds under management rallied to a record level in GBP terms, lifting revenue by 11%, profit by 22% and the dividend by 11%.
  • However, the market crash that followed these results has superseded a lot of the statement’s commentary and accounting.
  • Profit may now be running almost 40% lower than at the start of the year and may just about cover the 28p per share full-year dividend.
  • The accounts continue to sport high margins, decent cash flow and net cash — all of which ought to see the business through the present downturn.
  • Although the shares have been rated modestly on a P/E basis for years, the possible yield now tops 9%. I continue to hold.
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[SharePad] Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: AB Dynamics

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18 March 2020
By Maynard Paton

Recent market ructions have sent many shares tumbling — and perhaps created some buying opportunities.

Amid the mayhem, I devised a straightforward screen. I simply looked for decent-sized businesses that were still expected to grow, paid a dividend and were conservatively financed.

I applied the following criteria within SharePad to identify some respectable candidates:

  • Forecast earnings per share growth of at least 10% this year;
  • A market cap of £250 million or more;
  • Must have paid a dividend last year, and;
  • Net borrowings of less than zero (i.e. a net cash position).

I then ordered the shortlist based on how far each share price had fallen since its 52-week high.

I selected AB Dynamics because, of the names on my shortlist, I knew AB possessed a reputation for ‘business quality’ and its shares had fallen among the furthest.

Read my full AB Dynamics article for SharePad.

Maynard Paton

Tristel: Management Reveals Extra NHS And Chinese Orders To Combat Coronavirus After H1 UK Sales Advance A Superb 14%

29 February 2020
By Maynard Paton

Results summary for Tristel (TSTL):

  • Bumper first-half figures showed very satisfactory double-digit growth following superb sales increases within the UK and various overseas markets.
  • The underlying profit performance was complicated by undisclosed acquisition contributions, US regulatory costs, hefty option charges and cheeky bookkeeping.
  • Following these results, the coronavirus outbreak has led to an emergency “special exemption” order from China and prompted “substantial” extra purchases by the NHS.
  • The accounts remain in good shape with high margins, net cash and respectable cash generation.
  • The valuation has become extremely punchy with an estimated underlying P/E of 43. I continue to hold.
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