Category Archives: My Sold Shares

French Connection: Wow — £2.4m Compensation For Closing A Loss-Making Store!

30 November 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on French Connection (FCCN).

Event: Trading statement published 30 November

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.

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Record: 5%-Plus Yield Available As The Long Wait For Elusive New Clients Drags On

24 November 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Record (REC).

Event: Interim results published 24 November

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.

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Castings: Revenue Up, Profit Up, Cash Up, Dividend Up

13 November 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Castings (CGS).

Event: Interim results published 13 November

Summary: Just what I like — a concise set of results that reports steady progress and robust financials. In fact, I could not find anything to complain about, with revenue up, profit up, cash up, the dividend up,  plus the prospect of further growth during the second half. What’s more, the share price does not look that expensive. I continue to hold.

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Getech: I’m Not Tempted To Top Up Just Yet

03 November 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Getech (GTC).

Event: Final results published 03 November

Summary: Oh dear — a profit warning for 2016. So much for management’s optimism from just a few months ago!  The oil-sector downturn has also created extra guesswork with GTC’s valuation, while I remain concerned about the firm’s hefty development expenditure. Nevertheless, I believe GTC’s range of specialist data and services, alongside an asset-rich balance sheet, should see the firm through the difficulties. I continue to hold.

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Castings: I’ve Forged Ahead With This New Buy

23 October 2015
By Maynard Paton

Today I’m revealing my latest share investment.

The company in question is Castings (CGS), a long-established iron castings and machining group that’s based in the Midlands.

You may recall that, back in September, I added Castings to my watch list.

Well, after mulling over that write-up, I then bought in at an average price of 426p including all costs. The bid price is now 440p and the holding currently represents about 8% of my portfolio.

When I invested, I felt this £188m firm offered many traits of a respectable investment.

Important attractions for me included a durable dividend, an asset-flush balance sheet, improving productivity, good-value management and an upbeat immediate outlook. What’s more, a possible P/E of 11 suggested the shares were priced quite modestly.

However, I recognised CGS was by no means a one-way bet. Obvious risks include serving a small number of large customers and a recent profit history that has seen its ups and downs.

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French Connection: Grim Figures Confirm Basket-Case Status

21 September 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on French Connection (FCCN).

Event: Interim results published 21 September

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.

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Castings: A Rare Combination In The Current Market

04 September 2015
By Maynard Paton

Today I’m continuing my hunt for Watch List shares with a look at Castings (CGS).

Here are the initial attractions that prompted this research:

Respectable financials: The accounts showcase a dependable dividend, net cash and property assets
Straightforward management: The executives do not collect grandiose wages nor own any options
Interesting valuation: The shares could offer a possible P/E of 11

As usual, I’m applying a question-and-answer template to help me pinpoint companies that match the criteria set out in How I Invest. I’m looking for as many Yes answers as possible.

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Record: I’ve Slashed My Earnings Guess By 27%

25 August 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Record (REC).

Event: Business update published 25 August

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.

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French Connection: Reasons To Keep Holding (As Well As Avoid!) This Frustrating Investment 

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.

You can read my earlier Blog posts on FCCN here. But to cut to the chase, a trading statement in April owned up to weak retail sales and it’s likely the current year will witness FCCN’s seventh overall annual loss in eight years.

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.

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Record: The Dividend’s Up 10% And I Have Bought More

16 June 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Record (REC).

Event: Final results published 16 June

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.

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Electronic Data Processing: I’ll Just Have To Make Do With The Uncovered 7.2% Income

26 May 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Electronic Data Processing (EDP).

Event: Interim results published 26 May.

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.

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French Connection: Profit Warning Means Radical Action Is Now Required

24 April 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on French Connection (FCCN).

Event: Trading update published 24 April

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. 

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Getech: I’ve Had To Raise An ‘Amber Alert’

24 March 2015
By Maynard Paton

Quick update on Getech (GTC).

Event: Interim results and acquisition details published 24 March

Summary: A better-than-expected set of results that was blessed with a reasonable outlook statement — a pleasant surprise given GTC serves the battered oil and gas industry. Progress was not perfect, though, with sizeable intangible expenditure and details of a substantial acquisition leaving me on ‘amber alert’. I am minded to await further results before considering any top-up. I continue to hold.

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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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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. Continue reading

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! Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading