FW Thorpe: I Ignored My Own Advice And Missed A 500% Return

30 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

It’s funny how the dullest companies can produce some of the very best returns for patient investors.

Take FW Thorpe (TFW) for example. I wrote about this obscure lighting business for my former employer back in 2004, when the market cap was £26m and the share price was 23p (adjusted for a later 10-for-1 split).

Today, TFW’s market cap is £156m and the price is 135p — a 500% return if you include dividends collected along the way.

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Pennant International: Why I Bought A 12-Bagger

27 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

It’s not often I look at a 12-bagger and decide it’s still worth buying.

But that is exactly what happened when I pinpointed Pennant International (PEN) the other year.

To cut to the chase, this £23m military equipment specialist had suffered badly during the banking crash and the shares had plunged to 6p. But then a succession of upbeat results and contract wins eventually caught me eye and I bought in at 74p during October and November 2013.

What particularly appealed to me was the group landing its largest-ever contract alongside results that spoke of “good prospects for the short, medium and long term”. It’s quite rare to see such ‘multi-horizon’ optimism within a company RNS!

Also prompting me to buy were management’s sizeable shareholding, the firm’s asset-flush balance sheet, a focus on organic growth and a lowly market valuation.

While PEN’s expansion looks to have paused temporarily in 2014, the group’s overall prospects remain positive and I’m pleased to say the appealing executives, financials and valuation remain in place today.

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Burford Capital: I’m Projecting 9.1% Annualised Returns To 2019

23 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

*** EDIT: 26 FEB 2015: I HAVE SINCE SOLD THIS SHARE. PLEASE READ THE COMMENT SECTION AT THE END OF THE POST *** 

Time now to delve into Burford Capital (BUR), a £266m litigation-financing business that joined my portfolio following some very scant research.

The basis of my investment was:

  • Litigation funding was a nascent, fast-growing industry. At the time, BUR said business was “booming”.
  • The firm was claiming fantastic returns on invested capital (some 70%!).
  • I assumed BUR’s operations would not be affected by recessions or market crashes.
  • A corporate reorganisation had aligned the main executives with shareholders.
  • The shares traded at book value.
  • Good future progress might see the shares re-rated well above book value.
  • A fund managed by ace investor Neil Woodford owned 45%.

It wasn’t in-depth stuff and luckily I’ve managed to enjoy a reasonable return. I bought between November 2012 and February 2013 at an average of 101p, and I then sold 51% of my holding at 120p between October 2013 and January 2014. The recent market price is 130p.

However…I don’t like to rely on scant research with my investments. So I’ve finally got to grips with BUR and its convoluted accounts to gauge the opportunity ahead, and in particular to understand…

…why the company’s fantastic returns on invested capital haven’t translated into fantastic share-price growth!

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Record: I Averaged Down Heavily And Eventually Doubled My Money

20 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

I’m still ploughing through my portfolio to give each of my holdings a much-needed thorough review.

I’ve now come to Record (REC), a £75m currency-hedging business, where you may think my past share dealings have been somewhat bold.

You see, I first bought REC during December 2010 at 37p. At first the company’s updates were not that positive, so within a year I found myself averaging down at 24p — and then averaging down even more at 13p — because my sums pointed to a significantly cheaper valuation.

In fact, by April 2012 I was averaging down further at 11p and then at 10p, which luckily proved to be the bottom. From what I recall, the market was so depressed with the share, the 10p price then equalled REC’s net cash position and essentially threw the actual business in for free.

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Electronic Data Processing: This Obscure, Dull Small-Cap Should Pay Me An 8% Income

15 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

Legendary American investor Peter Lynch was always very keen on dull small-caps with dull names and dull operations. His theory was that such obscure businesses would not attract much industry competition or market enthusiasm, and so would be better investments for patient investors.

Electronic Data Processing (EDP) certainly has the dull name and the dull operations, but sadly its dull financial history has meant its share price has also been, well, rather dull.

But don’t stop reading just yet!

…because this small-cap dullard intends to pay a 5p dividend in future years — and shareholders such as me remain in line to collect a not-so-dull 8%-plus income.

Additional excitement comes in the form of EDP’s cost-saving measures, which I reckon could support an underlying P/E of just 6.

In fact, if you mix in contracted revenues, surplus assets, upfront customer payments — plus an intriguing shareholder register — then all of a sudden this £8m software supplier to builders merchants might not be that dull after all.

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Getech: Why I’m Down 44% And What I’m Doing Now

13 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

Time now to face up to one of my investment disasters of 2014 — and one that could very well extend deep into 2015 :-(

Getech (GTC) supplies geophysical reports and data to oil and gas explorers — and I believe the recent oil-price slump is likely to have a significant impact on this small-cap’s near-term progress.

Indeed, even before the oil price started to plunge in the Autumn, GTC had already issued two profit warnings — so the immediate omens here are not great. But for better or worse, I am sticking with the share.

In my view, GTC is a fundamentally attractive business that should have the wherewithal to survive the oil downturn. Plus, this holding could in time become a very lucrative recovery story — assuming profits can one day return to levels witnessed during recent years.

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Why I Believe French Connection Can Triple My Money

08 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

Today I am going to explain why I believe the shares of French Connection (FCCN) can one day triple my money.

Before you become too excited, let me say that my average buy price here is 31p — as compared to the recent market price of 55p.

Nonetheless, I believe there is still good upside to be had and I reckon the shares could trade above 100p if all goes to plan during the next few years.

However, this £53m fashion chain is by no means a one-way bet.

In particular, the group’s track record is extremely haphazard and I would not rule out further setbacks occurring. A quality buy-and-forget investment it is not.

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City of London Investment — 7%-Plus Dividend Yield Still Available

06 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

I was quite satisfied with today’s update from City of London Investment (CLIG), my largest holding.

The emerging-market fund manager confirmed its assets under management (AUM) had improved from $3.9bn to $4.0bn during the six months to December 2014, a period when the group’s emerging-market benchmark index dropped 8%.

Although today’s statement revealed slightly reduced profit guidance for the current year, new projections for the subsequent twelve months (to June 2016) appear quite promising.

I’m reassured all my sums continue to point to a maintained 24p per share dividend and a bumper 7%-plus yield at 325p.

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My 5 Commandments For 2015 And Beyond

05 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

So it’s early January and the time of year when we all resolve (once again!) to improve our stock-picking for the forthcoming twelve months.

But for me — starting out as a full-time investor — I really do need to ensure my portfolio does not fall apart during 2015.

I mean, my future wealth is now entirely dependent on my investing skills, and I certainly do not want to end up broke by Easter!

As such, I’ve decided to bypass the usual New Year resolutions to instead go for some serious-sounding commandments — which I hope I can strictly obey to avoid financial ruin!

Sadly I do not have any spare stone tablets lying around at home, so I’ve made do with this Blog post for the inscribing:

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My Portfolio: Up 16% In 2014

02 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

Today I’m going to follow-up my Year In Review 2014 by evaluating my portfolio’s 2014 performance in a bit more detail.

This evaluation is another useful exercise I like to perform at the start of every year. It’s just that I always want to know where all my gains (and losses!) occurred during the previous twelve months, and to see whether my portfolio decisions were consistently good, bad or indifferent!

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My Portfolio: Year In Review 2014

01 January 2015
By Maynard Paton

Happy New Year!

I trust you enjoyed the festive break and are now raring to do battle with the market for another twelve months!

This first Blog post of 2015 provides a short ‘year-in-review’ for each of my current portfolio holdings.

I find writing such reviews extremely useful, not least because it encourages me to double-check my investment logic to ensure I am still invested for all the right reasons.

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SeaEnergy plc: Is This Software Gem Valued At Just 7.5 Times Earnings?

10 July 2014
By Maynard Paton

*** EDIT: 16 MAR 2015: I HAVE SINCE SOLD THIS SHARE. PLEASE READ THE COMMENT SECTION AT THE END OF THE POST *** 

SeaEnergy (LON: SEA) is an unusual holding in my portfolio for two reasons.

First, I found the idea from a bulletin board rather than through my own market trawls. Second, the business does not offer the time-tested management that I prefer to see running my investments.

So there could be danger ahead here!

But drawing me to this £20m AIM business is an attractive software subsidiary that offers high margins, great cash flow, blue-chip clientele, recurring revenues and respectable growth prospects.

In the mix also are a couple of start-up divisions that I’m hopeful can soon reach breakeven, as well as a stake in a quoted oil small-cap that might one day deliver useful upside. Indeed, my valuation sums indicate the group’s software ‘gem’ could be valued at just 7.5 times profits.

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City of London Investment Group PLC: How I’m Banking On An 8.5% Dividend Yield

08 May 2014
By Maynard Paton

I love to buy shares run by owner-orientated bosses. You see, they often ensure shareholders are amply rewarded with reliable dividends and are generally the best people to put things right when progress doesn’t exactly run to plan.

That is certainly the case I think at City of London Investment (LON: CLIG), an emerging-market fund manager, where chief executive Barry Olliff remains committed to a healthy payout even though earnings have suffered a setback.

Having started to issue perhaps the most detailed ‘forward earnings guidance’ of any quoted company, Mr Olliff is perhaps the most open, upfront and shareholder-friendly executive I have ever come across. 

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