Summary: REC has struggled to make any decisive progress for several years now. The firm’s currency-trading strategies have floundered, clients have regularly jumped ship, while those clients that have stayed have demanded lower fees. Now comes the alarming news that REC’s bog-standard currency-hedging service will cut its fees by 10% to keep clients happy. To add insult to injury, greater costs will be required to cater for this product “enhancement”. I have been frustrated with REC for quite some time, and have belatedly decided enough is enough. I have sold my entire holding.
I trust you have enjoyed the festive break and are now raring to do battle with the market for another twelve months!
This first Blog post of 2018 provides a ‘year in review’ of my current portfolio holdings. I recap how each of the underlying businesses performed during 2017, as well as provide a few remarks about valuation.
Summary: This was another frustrating RNS from the specialist currency manager. The cost base has ‘inevitably’ increased, yet revenue and client numbers remain stagnant and — as usual — there’s no real sign of the business enjoying an upturn anytime soon. At least REC continues to generate cash, retains a robust cash pile and distributes a healthy dividend. The yield is 5%, which is not too bad in the current market. I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary: There was a certain irony about these figures. REC makes its money by managing currency movements for clients… yet the group itself has prospered of late largely because the weaker GBP has translated into greater management fees. Whether REC’s clients have actually prospered is harder to say, as there still seems little evidence of a growing customer base. Still, I welcome REC’s decision to hand excess cash back via larger dividends, but the accompanying £10m tender offer does appear as if it was devised primarily to help REC’s founder plan for his retirement. With operating costs expected to rise, too, I reckon the tender price equates to an underlying P/E of 14-15. I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary: Oh dear — EDP’s strategic review has not gone as well as I had hoped. The software minnow has taken ELEVEN months to finally own up to holding early-stage talks with just the one interested bidder. Other approaches have disappeared, due in part to unfavourable developments within the group’s defined-benefit pension scheme. I doubt EDP’s main shareholders can force anyone to bid and, without any sign of EDP having a Plan B, I have sold my entire holding. Continue reading →
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 2017 provides a ‘year-in-review’ of my current portfolio holdings. I recap how each of the underlying businesses performed during 2016, as well as provide a few remarks about valuation.
As I mentioned this time last year, 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! Continue reading →
Summary: What a letdown! I had hoped EDP could announce the conclusion of its strategic review within these results, but no such luck I’m afraid. Instead, shareholders have been left in the dark about possible corporate action as the underlying business puts in another dismal revenue performance. The irony is this company actually develops software for others to improve sales! I can only hope 2017 will see a generous buyer emerge and I can then move on. I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary:If nothing else, REC’s results are consistent — once again this specialist currency manager revealed stagnant financial progress, a lack of new business and a dependence on a handful of major clients. Nevertheless, the group sports high margins and cash-flush accounts, while the P/E could be as low as 7 thanks to the weaker GBP. Talk of potential special dividends unfortunately remains talk for now, but at least the ordinary payout yields 5.2%. I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary: It’s taken me five years to realise that I have wasted my time with FCCN’s purported turnaround. The fashion chain’s latest results were very mixed, and I feel cash may now become tight if there is more bad news. I have belatedly concluded the problem Retail division could well lose money for some years ahead, while an activist investor may not be doing enough to instigate the necessary board changes. I have sold my entire holding. Continue reading →
Summary: These far-from-spectacular figures were no surprise. Indeed, both revenue and profit have stagnated for five years now and there was no real suggestion that improvements will occur anytime soon. What’s more, a new regulatory risk was disclosed that may hinder progress :-( Nevertheless, this specialist currency manager did talk of future special dividends, while the high-margin, cash-rich nature of the business remains attractive. I reckon the underlying P/E is 8 and the yield is 6%-plus, and I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary: This was another lacklustre update from the software micro-cap. It was disappointing in particular to see revenue continuing to stagnate and — despite various cost-cutting measures of the past — operating profit dropping lower. Thankfully EDP has put itself up for sale and I am very hopeful a generous trade buyer can be found to conclude what has been a somewhat frustrating investment. In the meantime, there is the prospect of a 6%-plus yield to collect. I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary: An improved set of figures following last year’s awful interims. However, the numbers do suggest FCCN experienced a weaker Christmas while the cash pile really can’t afford another £9m outflow. Online sales were miserable, too. Still, Retail gross margins during H2 were the highest since 2011 and new board members may well help the moribund management. This value investment still requires inordinate patience… and I continue to hold. Continue reading →
Summary: Not a great start to 2016 — REC has admitted a significant mandate win from last year has now been ‘suspended’. Despite a more accommodating environment for the specialist currency manager, this update just adds to the disappointing client losses of late . Funnily enough, a stronger dollar appears to sustain my earnings guess even after today’s client withdrawal. Meanwhile, the shares do not look expensive on a possible P/E of 8. I continue to hold.
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 2016 provides a short ‘year-in-review’ of each of my current portfolio holdings.
As I mentioned at the start of 2015, 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!
Summary: As expected, this dull software microcap reported no miracles. Cost savings should underpin the firm’s near-term progress, but revenue growth remains as elusive as ever. At least EDP still enjoys plenty of recurring income and has committed again to a hefty 5p per share dividend. I’m trusting the trio of North American funds that hold 28% of this stock will one day stir-up some corporate action so we can all exit at an advantageous price. I continue to hold.
Summary: Phew! A pleasantly surprising update that revealed stable trading and a signal that losses could be narrowing. However, the most welcome news was the redevelopment of the group’s loss-making Regent Street store, for which compensation of £2.4m will be received from the landlord. I just wish FCCN could be paid off for all of its under-performing shops! I continue to hold.
Summary: A lacklustre set of results in which the board remained optimistic of further progress — but where new clients were still nowhere to be seen. This statement was particularly irritating due to higher-than-expected staff costs and commentary about an ‘increased’ dividend. However, at least my earnings guess has not changed. One day I trust REC’s currency strategies will have their day in the sun, but until then I must content myself with a useful 5%-plus yield and dreams of what could be. I continue to hold.
Summary: A grim set of figures that had been flagged by an earlier profit warning. News of further store closures and maintained gross margins were reassuring in the circumstances, but the real saving grace was the relatively positive outlook for the second half. There’s still a chance this share could one day prove to be a bargain, but for now its basket-case status remains intact. I continue to hold.
Summary: A very disappointing statement. A major client has withdrawn $2.8bn from REC’s administration and I’ve had to slash my earnings guess by 27%. The shares have dropped significantly, though at 29p they remain valued at 10x possible profits and yield 5.7%. The business remains high margin and cash rich, but sadly still dependent on a small number of customers. I continue to hold.
Today I’m summarising my current thoughts on French Connection (FCCN), a small-cap fashion retailer that continues to suffer from poor trading and which remains an under-whelming investment in my portfolio.
One day I’m sure a sustained turnaround here could deliver an exceptional share-price gain — although there is the real chance this company may never actually turn…
Anyway, prompted by FCCN’s share price falling steeply of late, I’ve weighed up the various pros and cons of what has become a very frustrating business and investment. Just to confirm, I continue to hold the shares.
Summary: Satisfactory results, with a positive outlook and a 10% dividend lift supporting my belief that REC’s recovery is gathering pace. However, news of a 10% company-wide salary hike for staff was not so pleasing, and my earnings guess for 2016 has been trimmed accordingly. Nevertheless, the accounts remain impressive and the valuation looks lowly, and I have bought more shares today.
Summary: Another rather dull update from this rather dull software microcap. These results were a little disappointing on the revenue and profit fronts, but at least there was some useful progress on the balance sheet. One day I trust EDP’s business can advance significantly and provide some long-awaited excitement. Until then I’ll just have to make do with the uncovered 7.2% dividend yield. I continue to hold.
Summary: Profit warning — poor H1 Retail sales will mean greater-than-expected group losses this year. However, the profitable Wholesale and Licensing divisions continue to perform as expected. Turnaround possibilities remain, but the protracted wait has become just that bit longer once again. What’s needed now is some radical management action. I continue to hold.
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.
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
*** 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!Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →