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Issue 5 July 2014

Global agriculture price bonanza The AIM company profiting from this mega-trend

write-ups on another five AIM companies recent IPO that is perfectly poised smallcap engineering recovery play ambitious restaurant group fast-growing healthcare manufacturer free to private investors

Supported by

AIMprospector AIMprospector

Issue 5 July 2014

Global agriculture price bonanza The AIM company profiting from this mega-trend

write-ups on another five AIM companies recent IPO that is perfectly poised smallcap engineering recovery play ambitious restaurant group fast-growing healthcare manufacturer free to private investors

Supported by

Welcome to the July edition of AIMprospector, the online magazine for investors in AIM-quoted companies. As always, the magazine is sent to registered subscribers 24 hours before it is published on

To be among the very first people to read AIM Prospector, register your email address at for a monthly email notification and no spam. Blackthorn Focus (publishers of AIM Prospector) will not share your details with any other organisation.

Much has happened since the last AIM Prospector. WYG, the engineering consultancy that featured in the May edition, reported final results at the beginning of June. This was a watershed announcement, heralding WYG’s development from recovery to growth. Dividends were resumed as operating profit increased threefold. The results inspired one broker to increase their 2016 forecasts for the company by 37%. Since results, WYG has announced its appointment to a framework agreement for the Ministry of Defence. This will see the company consulted by the MoD on the delivery of any major site facilities. Majestic Wine’s (May edition) results were perhaps the least impressive that the company has delivered in the last ten years. Nevertheless, the dividend was increased and like-for-like sales were broadly steady. According to Stockopedia, the shares today trade on a 2015 P/E of 15.4, with a prospective yield of 3.8%. The biggest AIM story of the month was Quindell and its failure to secure a premium listing on the Main Market. The company raised £200m from the market in November last year. However, having now taken a kicking from Gotham City Research and the UK Listing Authority, the share price tells me that deep-pocketed investors are deserting the company. Shareholders have to ask themselves what Quindell’s future will look like if it has lost the market’s faith forever. RWS, the company featured as Top Pick in the April edition and described as one of the very most successful on the entire market, reported interims at the beginning of June. Sales were 28% higher, assisted by an acquisition. Adjusted EPS was flat but the interim dividend was raised by an impressive 9%. This month’s Top Pick is farm supplies and retail business Wynnstay Group. The company has been selected as one of the best listed plays on agricultural inflation trends. Results in recent years have supported this strategy. Only 34 UK-listed companies can better Wynnstay’s record in the last five years for sales and dividend increases. As for Boohoo, the fast-growth fashion firm, the company announced profit for the year of £8.4m. That puts the shares today on a P/E of 67 times last year’s earnings. With revenue growth of just 24% reported for Q1 of this year, that valuation still seems too rich. I am staying short using Spreadex.

Contents Tricorn Group..................p 4 Wynnstay Group..............p 5 Stockopedia...........................p 7 European Wealth Group...................p 8 LiDCO..............................p9 Tasty Group...................p 10 next month.....................p 11

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Tricorn: a smallcap recovery play Quoted on AIM since 2001, Tricorn is a manufacturer of specialist tubing parts. The company’s key markets are Energy, Transportation and Aerospace. Energy applications include diesel engines in the power and mining industries. Uses of Tricorn product in Transportation include fuel and braking systems for large on-road and off-road vehicles. The Aerospace operations supply piping for jet engines, fuselage and landing gear. Tricorn trades through four subsidiary companies and a majorityowned joint venture in China.

Tricorn slipped to a loss on the year In the six years from 2008 to 2013, Tricorn delivered an average annual net profit of £0.7m. The company was profitable in each of these years. 2010 was the worst year of these with a net profit of just £0.15m reported and EPS of 0.46p. In the best year, 2012, net profits hit £1.16m and EPS reached 3.4p. Results for the twelve months to 31st March 2014 were announced on June 10th. As signalled in an earlier trading statement, Tricorn slipped to a loss on the year. Full year dividends were reduced to 0.13p from 0.3p after Tricorn declined to pay a final dividend. When trading difficulties at Tricorn were first revealed in February, the shares fell from 32p to 16p in one week. However, the recent results 4

revealed signs that Tricorn’s long-term prospects may be looking up.

Chinese and American operations are already making good progress Tricorn’s loss occurred as a result of weakness in its traditional markets and costs associated with its new manufacturing operations. It is not just the hope of recovery among Tricorn’s traditional customer base that has led management to make confident noises. Tricorn’s new Chinese and American operations are already making good progress. Tricorn’s US business was acquired in March 2013 when a company called Whitley Products went into receivership. Under the deal, Tricorn purchased a manufacturing facility in North Carolina and a collection of fixed assets from two sites. Tricorn paid £1.95m for these Whitley assets. Considering Whitley made total revenues of £21m in its 2012 financial year versus Tricorn’s £25m, the transformational possibilities of this acquisition need to be acknowledged. The Chinese joint venture was formed in partnership with the Nanjing Minguang Oil Pipe Company and is based in Nanjing.

The US and Chinese operations are part of Tricorn’s strategy to build a more global footprint to meet customer demands for shorter supply chains. This strategy appears to be working already. Management has reported that new customer revenues are growing in the USA and that the Chinese operations are making a positive contribution to earnings.

Tricorn now has a manufacturing capacity of around £40m According to some estimates, Tricorn now has a manufacturing capacity of around £40m a year. If the company can achieve sales on that scale at the level of margins that it has enjoyed in the past, then the shares would likely double from here. Tricorn Group (LON:TCN) FOR Little in the price for growth prospects Decent track record AGAINST US customers might not return Stronger pound may affect exports Market cap Bid:offer P/E (forecast) Yield (forecast) 52week low:high

£7m 20p:21.5p 41.5 1.5 16p:43p



TOPpick: Shareholders in clover at Wynnstay Wynnstay Group is perfectly positioned to benefit from rising global food demand. Headquartered in Wales, Wynnstay Group is principally a supplier to farms and rural communities. Wynnstay comprises two divisions: Agricultural (seed, feed, fertiliser) and Specialist Retail (farm/country supplies and pet products). In the last five years, sales have grown at an average rate of 12.0% per year. Dividend growth in that time has averaged 9.2% a year, increasing for each of the last nine years. This success puts Wynnstay among the top 1% of all AIM-quoted businesses. In October 2013, Wynnstay purchased Carmarthen & Pumsaint Farmers Ltd (CPF), a farming supplies co-operative. This acquisition extended Wynnstay’s footprint in the SouthWest Wales region, where it had previously been under-represented. The CPF acquisition boosted the size of Wynnstay’s Specialist Retail portfolio and brings supply synergies. Seed and fertiliser sales will also gain.

Wynnstay has a trading presence in Wales, the Midlands and northern England The acquisition of CPF is the latest in a series of acquisitions that have been integrated into the Group over the last sixteen years. Today, Wynnstay has a trading presence in Wales, the Midlands and northern England. Wynnstay’s Agricultural business delivered £172m of revenues (77% of

a Just For Pets superstore

group) and £2.3m (47%) of operating profit in the first half of 2014. Although these margins are low, there are some important factors to consider. First, the company is operating in a sector where price increases are on an upward trend. Global cereal demand is expected to grow 50% according to forecasts for future population growth (from current seven billion to nine billion by 2050) and dietary changes (3−4 billion people will become richer and consume more meat & dairy). Domestically, declining food self-sufficiency means that Britain now produces less than two-thirds of food consumed, down from 75% in 1991. Second, much of Wynnstay’s sales enjoy a natural hedge whatever the weather: when cattle feed demand falls, seed and fertiliser demand typically rises. Finally, bulk supply to farmers is a substantial logistical undertaking. Wynnstay is wellembedded in the regions that it serves

sales enjoy a natural hedge whatever the weather after skilful integration of a series of past acquisitions. Wynnstay’s competitors in this sector are typically fragmented, smaller operations. Wynnstay has a market position that would be extremely difficult to replicate. The upshot is that demand for Wynnstay’s livestock feed, healthcare products, seed (Wynnstay has 14% of the UK market for seed), fertilisers and crop protection products looks set to continue rising well into the future. 5

AIMprospector The Specialist Retail business accounted for 23% and 53% of group sales and operating profits respectively in H1 2014. The Wynnstay Stores segment provides non-discretionary services and products for farmers and smallholders. This ranges from a farm gate to sheep shearing equipment and from wax jackets to arm-length disposable gloves. There are 39 units in the Wynnstay Stores network across Wales and the West Midlands. Seven of these units were integrated from the CPF acquisition. The CPF stores added £6.5m to H1 sales and a positive contribution to year end results is expected from these new units. Further Wynnstay Stores openings are planned for 2014. As a whole, the Stores network contributed £43m (86%) of Specialist Retail revenues and almost 100% of this division’s operating profit. The remainder of the Specialist Retail revenues comes from Wynnstay’s ‘Just for Pets’ retail chain. This business was launched by the Group in 2007, as part of efforts to diversify away from Agriculture. Just for Pets operates

TOPpick a group of twenty pet stores, mainly in urban locations around the West Midlands. Notwithstanding a further £0.5m (+3%) H1 increase in like-for-like sales to £7m, Just for Pets operations are at breakeven. Management considers Just for Pets to be a ‘work-in-progress’. In order to grasp the potential, it might help to look to the recently floated competitor ‘Pets at Home’. This is a better established retailer with 2013 sales of £600m and operating profits of £110m. The market value attributed to Pets at Home suggests that if the same margins could be achieved at Wynnstay’s Just for Pets, then the market value of this division could reach £25m. This would see Just for Pets provide a financially robust and valuable diversification for the group, giving scope for further dividend advances. Interim results, released two weeks ago, showed that Wynnstay is set for another typical year of growth. Feed

set for another typical year of growth

sale of feed and fertiliser makes up much of Wynnstay’s sales

Britain now produces less than two-thirds of food consumed margins improved on last year and a good performance for the full year is expected from this division. Net debt was reduced significantly (from £15.4m to £10.9m, helped in part by an equity placing) and a 9.7% dividend increase was announced. On the balance sheet, Wynnstay reported net assets of £75m, providing considerable backing to the market valuation. The outlook was positive, with management pointing to expectations of a good harvest this year. As a long-successful company

a niche that benefits from powerful long-term trends serving a strengthening customer base, Wynnstay shares have been awarded a premium rating by the market. Historically, while variations in the weather have had some effect on the trading result, only a full-blown foot & mouth outbreak could really threaten a full-year loss. This makes Wynnstay a high earnings quality business, positioned in a niche that benefits from powerful long-term trends.

Wynnstay Group (LON:WYN) FOR Future earnings supported by demographics Fantastic record of shareholder returns AGAINST Appears fully valued for now Pet chain needs work Market cap Bid:offer P/E (forecast) Yield (forecast) 52week low:high


£119m 620p:627p 17.6 1.6 500p:691p

Stockopedia is an online stock filtering and research community. I have been a customer of Stockopedia’s for several years and am happy to be able to tell AIM Prospector readers about how I use the system to discover investment opportunities. Stockopedia is a dream for investors who prioritise a company’s corporate performance in their investment decision-making process. The product is driven by a comprehensive database of corporate account statements. The Stockopedia system enables stock-pickers to seek out investments based on almost any financial criteria.

I credit Stockopedia with helping me discover some of my most successful recent investments. Good examples include Robert Wiseman Dairies (which popped up on a yield filter around one month before its takeover), T Clarke, Barclays and my one AIM-quoted shareholding, Begbies Traynor (up 35% plus dividends so far).

For example, growth investors can simply screen for companies that have delivered year-on-year earnings growth for at least, say, five years. Income investors can filter on dividend yield and growth etc.

To demonstrate the value of the system I have run two investment screens through Stockopedia to highlight some of the best companies on AIM.

The first screen attempts to identify the largest and most successful companies of all on AIM. To qualify, companies must pass the following tests:

Of these, RWS, Caretech, Portmeirion and Brooks Macdonald are particularly noteworthy. RWS’ ten year sales, profit and dividend record makes it unique among AIM companies. Recent half-year results from the company showed a 28% increase in sales, 6% rise in operating profit and a 9% dividend hike. EPS for the full year is expected to come in 8% above last year’s figure (Stockopedia also contains consensus forecast data).

market capitalisation > £25m dividends growing year-on-year for at least 3 years average annual EPS growth > 5% per annum over the last five years average annual sales growth > 5% per annum over the last five years sales increasing year-on-year for the last three years at least average annual per share dividend growth > 5% per annum over the last five years EPS forecast to grow by at least 5% for the next year Only fourteen AIM companies pass all of the tests. They are: Company


Yield (%)

Mkt Cap (£m)

Abcam (ABC)




Nichols (NICL)




RWS Holdings (RWS)




Prezzo (PRZ)




Brooks Macdonald (BRK)




Idox (IDOX)




Craneware (CRW)







Judges Scientific (JDG)




Mattioli Woods (MTW)




Portmeirion (PMP)




Jarvis Securities (JIM)




Maintel Holdings (MAI)




Solid State (SSP)




Caretech Holdings (CTH)

Caretech appears to be the last expensive of the lot. According to the Stockopedia data, the care home provider is trading on just 8.5 times forecast profits for the year, with an expected dividend yield of 2.9%. As for Portmeirion, Stockopedia shows that the shares are currently priced at 13.9 times forecast earnings for the year and come with an expected dividend yield of 3.3% (the figures in the tables are ‘smoothed’ ratios). Brooks Macdonald shareholders have enjoyed the fastest dividend growth. Payouts from the investment management business have increased, on average, by 47% a year in the last five years. My second filter is much simpler and lists all those AIM companies that have delivered average annual growth in earnings per share of more than 5% a year over the last five years. Of these, I have picked out five companies that look particularly interesting in the table below. Young & Co may be worth further research. While all the current comment around pub chains is negative, Young’s is proving that it is possible to thrive. Company


Young & Co's Brewery (YNGN)


Yield (%) 1.9

Mkt Cap (£m) 394

Anpario (ANP)




Jarvis Securities (JIM)




Crawshaw (CRAW)




Getech (GTC)




The annual subscription to Stockopedia is dwarfed by the gains I have made from shares that it has helped me to find and research. If you think that this comprehensive data product could help you, click here for more information. by David O’Hara, Editor, AIM Prospector

AIMprospector advertisement feature


Will annuity changes bring soaring sales to European Wealth Group? European Wealth Group is a wealth management provider. Documents accompanying its May IPO revealed that the company is looking to capitalise on changes to the fund management industry and pension rules. The UK has a longstanding and diverse wealth management industry. It essentially serves people with so much money that they need a high degree of professional advice to properly manage it. A typical customer of a wealth manager might a be retiree who wants to ensure that they pass on as much as possible but does not have the financial nous to self-direct their investments. Yet, just as providers are diverse, so is the customer base. Wealth managers might be acting for schools, charities or other institutions.

UK has a longstanding and diverse wealth management industry This exposes European Wealth Group to the classic investment manager’s double-whammy. If investment returns are good, the fees being earned rise and new business can be won more easily. However, if returns falter, fees fall and customers can depart. For a large fund manager like Schroders or Aberdeen, it is often wise to first take a view on likely future market returns before trading the shares. Obviously, in rising markets, 8

push more customers European Wealth Group’s way. The RDR made fund manager and platform charging structures more visible to clients. The wealth management industry hopes that this new visibility will make its more personal, bespoke offering appear comparatively better value.

timed its move to AIM perfectly

shares in fund managers perform well. I expect this effect would be less marked with a wealth manager like European Wealth Group. Its customer base will be savvy enough to realise that in the short term, investment returns can disappoint. Wealth management clients are also more expensive to market to, making them more difficult for rivals to poach than, say, an ISA investor would be. As the regulatory burden (particularly anti-money laundering requirements) has become increasingly burdensome, smaller players are finding it tougher to remain operational. European Wealth Group expects that its stock-market listing will help it to play a role as an industry consolidator. This could be achieved by issuing shares to make acquisitions.

personal, bespoke offering

In the last budget, the Chancellor announced that the government would be dropping the requirement for all pension savings to be converted into an annuity. Before retirees can spend the money on something else, they will be made to secure financial advice. This will present a firm like European Wealth Group with two opportunities. The first, to sell wealth management services for a customer’s pension pot and also an offering to manage any non-pension assets. European Wealth appears to have timed its move to AIM perfectly. European Wealth Group (LON:EWG) FOR Industry turmoil brings opportunities Growing top tier of UK wealthy AGAINST Pipeline of expensive regulation Brand currently sub-scale Market cap Bid:offer P/E (forecast)

The regulator’s Retail Distribution Review (RDR) is also expected to

Yield (forecast) 52week low:high

£13m 95p:105p n/a 0 63p:180p


LiDCO set for next stage of life From its headquarters in London’s Hoxton, LiDCO manufactures patient monitoring equipment for use in surgery and intensive care.

Hospitals use LiDCO’s hemodynamic (blood circulation) equipment to measure a patient’s blood flow and blood pressure in real-time during surgery. This information is used to help an anaesthetist to adjust the applied dosage by measuring the patient’s response to surgery and anaesthesia. LiDCO’s equipment provides continuous readings, all from the simple application of a cuff to the patient’s finger. This avoids the need for more intrusive measuring techniques, which frequently result in a higher infection rate and a longer period of hospitalisation for the patient. LiDCO’s equipment adds further value to a surgery team through its patent-protected user interface. The company sells through what it calls the ‘razor blade’ model. Customers pay a significant sum for the LiDCO equipment, followed by a fee each time that the kit is used. The value in LiDCO’s system comes from better patient outcomes, fewer complications and faster recovery times. Its appeal to profit-motivated healthcare providers in the USA is clear. However, it is the recent strong growth of sales to the NHS that has seen

avoids the need for more intrusive measuring techniques

LiDCO move into profit. LiDCO’s results for 2014 (LiDCO has a January year end) showed a 20% increase in group revenue to £8.6m. In this time, UK sales rose 37% to comprise almost half of group revenues.

fewer complications and faster recovery times Since then, LiDCO used its AGM statement to confirm that it expects profit growth to continue in-line with market expectations. According to the investment website Stockopedia, this would equate to EPS for the year of around 0.8p per share. The impressive sales growth is testament to the relevance and effectiveness of the LiDCO product. Furthermore, a series of clinical studies have demonstrated the contribution that LiDCO’s products can make to patient health and hospital management. Guidelines issued earlier this year by the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland showed that among elderly patients in surgery, mortality rates and post-operative care costs both improved significantly when devices providing a function similar to LiDCO’s were used during surgery. This finding was supported by a later report from Duke University of North Carolina which showed that patient length of stay and readmission rates showed considerable

improvements when LiDCO’s LiDCOrapid device was used on patients undergoing colorectal surgery. Like many companies operating in and around healthcare, LiDCO has powerful trends working in its favour. First, the ageing population means that there are more elderly patients requiring surgery. These are some of the most at-risk surgery candidates for whom advanced monitoring techniques, such as those provided by LiDCO, would deliver most benefit. Also in LiDCO’s favour is the requirement for greater efficiencies within hospitals as patient demand increases.

LiDCO has some powerful trends working in its favour LiDCO is set for rapid profit growth as new sales and the stream of recurring revenues from existing customers continues. If profit forecasts for the next two years can be met, then the shares look moderately priced at this point. Like so many AIM companies however, such success could see the company swallowed up by a larger player. LiDCO Group (LON:LID) FOR Well-established in niche Benefits of product now clear AGAINST Constrained budgets may slow take-up Very dependent on one product Market cap Bid:offer P/E (forecast) Yield (forecast) 52week low:high

£34m 17p:18p 22.2 0 12p:29p



Profits on a plate from Tasty Tasty Group is another successful AIM restaurant roll-out story. The company has been quoted on AIM since 2006. Its first ever half-year results revealed sales of £1.1m from four restaurants with another two in the pipeline. Fast-forward to 2013 and final results showed turnover of £23m for the full year, from a portfolio of 28 restaurants.

an excellent example of a fastpaced roll-out As of March this year, Tasty was operating from 31 sites. The majority of these are Wildwood/Wildwood Kitchen, an Italian/grill chain. Six are DimT dim sum oriental restaurants. One other site is operating under a different brand. Tasty’s five year record is an excellent example of a fast-paced roll-out. Since 2008, sales have increased at an average rate of 20% per annum. Operating profit in that time has swung from -£1.6m to £2.3m.

Tasty’s cost base scales favourably The most recent finals give some hint as to how much further the rollout (and thus profits) could go. Five sites were opened in 2013. In the first quarter of this year a Wildwood Kitchen (a kind of mini-Wildwood) was opened in Oakham. Wildwood itself arrived in Salisbury in March.


In October 2013, Tasty raised £3.5m through a share placing. This left the company with £3.4m of cash on the balance sheet at the end of the year. Management plans to use this (and a favourably-priced debt facility from Barclays) to accelerate the roll-out. This fundraising looks to have been a wise move. Last year’s income statement shows how quickly profits have risen as the Wildwood chain has expanded. Tasty reported a 30% increase in operating profit from a 20% rise in sales. This suggests that Tasty’s cost base scales favourably with the roll-out. Tasty incurred £260k of pre-opening costs in 2013 as it added five sites. My quick calculations suggest that Tasty is planning to double in three years. It seems that brokers are expecting an even faster expansion and are forecasting a 65% increase in EPS this year with sales rising a similar amount. Given that the company reported EPS of only 2.67p last year, I would normally have said that shares in Tasty were overpriced. However, the company has previously doubled sales in just two years. If management can repeat that trick then today’s valuation would not be outrageous. I do have some concerns, however. First, Tasty is not the only casual dining chain with plans to roll-out on the UK’s high streets using cash

from public markets. Tasty competes here with Prezzo, Richoux Group and Restaurant Group. Add in the privately owned and overseas chains such as Pizza Express and Nando’s and it is plain how competitive the sector is.

Tasty is not the only casual dining chain with plans to roll-out

The news that Tragus Group, owners of the Strada brand, are looking to offload a large number of sites may present some opportunities for Tasty. However, forthcoming interest rate rises will soon begin to affect the disposable incomes of borrowers. The next two years could be tougher for Tasty than the last two. On the current valuation, the company simply has to deliver. Tasty (LON:TAST) FOR Strong track record Plenty of room for further Wildwood roll-out AGAINST Interest rate threat to disposable incomes Valuation demands growth Market cap Bid:offer P/E (forecast) Yield (forecast) 52week low:high

£51m 97p:99p 21.8 0 82p:125p


Next month: AIM Prospector will be showcasing a well-known consumer brand that recently IPO’d on the junior market. Also likely to feature is a niche business whose share price has suffered lately, pushing the dividend yield to an attractive level. There will be one new feature in August’s magazine, a page of advice and insight from an experienced AIM professional. I hope that readers will appreciate this perspective and enjoy the new feature. With UK interest rate rises apparently moving ever-closer, next month’s Top Pick will likely be the AIM company that

I believe is the best positioned to profit from this. I look forward to reporting on this share and speculating on just how high the price could move. Summer can be a lively time for AIM. I hope that price action in coming months will enable AIM Prospector to bring you stories on companies that are trading on compelling valuations. Don’t forget to register your email address at to get your copy of the next AIM Prospector 24 hours before anyone else.


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July 2014 AIM Prospector  

Featuring five AIM-quoted companies: European Wealth Group, LiDCO, Tasty , Tricorn and Wynnstay Group.

July 2014 AIM Prospector  

Featuring five AIM-quoted companies: European Wealth Group, LiDCO, Tasty , Tricorn and Wynnstay Group.