Pennant International: Why I Sold

20 March 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Pennant International (PEN).

Event: Annual results published 17 March

Summary: Headline results as expected, but they hid a weaker second half and some disconcerting cash-flow movements. The figures contained plenty of other irritations and worries, while the chairman’s statement was notable for what it did not say. All told, the results carried too many signs of profit trouble ahead and I sense PEN could return to its haphazard ways witnessed between 2000 and 2009. I have sold.

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French Connection: I Still Think The Shares Could Top 100p

17 March 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on French Connection (FCCN).

Event: Annual results published 17 March

Summary: Mixed results. The Retail division was subdued, and gave a disappointing second-half performance. However, trading at the Wholesale and Licensing divisions appeared promising. There was further welcome progress on cost cutting, too. This turnaround has still to really turn, and I’ve trimmed my recovery assumptions. But the upside potential remains sizeable. I continue to hold. 

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Tristel: Is There A Further 46% Upside?

25 February 2015
By Maynard Paton

Here’s a an update on Tristel (TSTL).

Event: Half-year results published 25 February.

Summary: Figures met my expectations, showing good all-round progress. Management commentary noticeably upbeat — confidence underlined by first RNS mentions of group sales target and ‘North America’. Firm’s healthcare products remain attractive to investors — repeat purchase and patent protected. Share-price upside could be attractive if growth forecasts come good. I continue to hold.

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City of London Investment: 7% Income Plus Vague Hints Of Dividend Lift

12 February 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on City of London Investment (CLIG).

Event: Half-year results published 11 February.

Summary: Figures already heralded by January trading statement — therefore no surprises. Previous guidance all repeated. Still on course to pay 24p per share dividend and support 7% dividend yield at 335p. Vague hints of dividend increase now emerging. Cash position remains high. P/E remains modest. I continue to hold. 

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M Winkworth: My 92% Return From London’s Property Boom

6 February 2015
By Maynard Paton

Today I’m studying the smallest holding in my portfolio — M Winkworth (WINK).

In fact, this £16m estate-agency business represents less than 1% of my portfolio… and so is unlikely to send my wealth into orbit even if it does multi-bag!

I bought WINK at 90p during June and July 2011, but then sold 70% of my shares between August 2013 and February 2014 at an average of 173p.

At the time I was a bit worried about WINK’s substantial exposure to London’s booming housing market — and I probably would have sold the rest of my shares were it not for the price dropping to today’s 123p. Including some very useful dividends collected along the way, my total return to date has been a respectable 92%.

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Andrews Sykes: My 12.7% Income From A 94-Year-Old Tycoon

4 February 2015
By Maynard Paton

You may have gathered by now that I do like my companies to have hefty insider ownership.

My theory is simple: I’m convinced directors are more likely to run their businesses successfully — and are therefore more likely to deliver satisfactory returns to outside investors such as you and me — if they boast significant shareholdings themselves.

I’m certainly hoping that’s going to be the case at Andrews Sykes (ASY), where the chairman and his family own 90% — yes 90%! — of the company.

Such shareholder dominance will of course mean this £127m hire business won’t be for everyone. Indeed, the tycoon in charge has adopted a very haphazard dividend policy and does not believe in standard boardroom governance. He is also very old at 94.

Nonetheless, a closer look ASY’s accounts reveals exactly why he wants to own so much of this company. Super margins, immense cash flow and lofty returns on capital in particular mark ASY out as a top-quality operator — and drew me in during May 2013 at an average of 233p.

So far at least, the threat of being ‘done over’ by a boardroom fiefdom has not emerged.

Instead, I have enjoyed a satisfactory return, with the shares rising to 300p — plus a sizeable 29.7p dividend for 2013 representing a lovely 12.7% income on my purchase price.

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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


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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