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Airlines stocks continue their recovery and quality continues to shine

Wizz Air Holdings (LON:WIZZ), the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, announced fantastic results for the year to 31 March 2020. Despite the challenging environment WIZZ is committing to the purchase of plenty of new aircraft over the next few years and has also announced its first ever flights from London Luton to Moscow and St. Petersburg. The shares of WIZZ and other airlines, including Fundamental AIM portfolio holding Dart Group (LON:DTG), operator of Jet2.com had another strong week, despite the UK government’s quarantine travel rules, which are coming into force on June 8. With the UK suffering the second-highest Covid-19 death rate after Spain, according to excess mortality figures, we find it somewhat ironic that the UK wants to restrict the movement of evidently more healthy visitors to these shores.

The latest AIM statistics from the London Stock Exchange highlight a strong bounce from London’s growth market which will celebrate its Silver Anniversary on 19 June.  At the end of May 2020 there were 832 companies on AIM, with the total market value £98.6bn compared with £88.5bn at the end of April. Our associates Investor’s Champion cover all the monthly updates from AIM.

AIM, which was originally called the Alternative Investment Market, was launched on 19 June 1995 as a replacement to the previous Unlisted Securities Market that had been in operation since 1980. At launch, AIM comprised only 10 companies valued collectively at £82.2m, with only one survivor, remaining from the original 10. May closed with 18 AIM companies valued at more than £1bn, several of which are Fundamental AIM portfolio constituents.

Fevertree Dinks (LON:FEVR), the world’s leading supplier of premium carbonated mixers, and another Fundamental AIM portfolio holding reassured with its AGM statement. While their On-Trade market remains fully or partially closed across many of their regions, Fevertree has been doing nicely from the increased consumption at home during lock-down. At home (Off-Trade) sales in the first full month of lockdown were up 24% year-on-year in the UK and they have seen continued positive momentum since, with its core tonic range performing particularly well. Off-Trade sales in the US nearly doubled in April and May.

XP Power (LON:XPP), one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of critical power control components to the electronics industry, and a long-term holding in Fundamental General Portfolios continues to impress. XP has been experiencing exceptional levels of demand from its Healthcare customers which includes critical applications used to treat Covid-19 patients (including ventilators). As usual this fabulous business looks in great shape.

IG Group (LON:IGG), the online trading platform and another Fundamental General Portfolio holding reported 119% growth in trading revenue in the fourth quarter of its financial year, with full year revenue 36% higher at £649m. The shares were flat on the news, implying that the good news was already priced into the current share price.

Gamma Communications (LON:GAMA), the provider of cloud communication services and one of AIM’s largest companies, continues to impress reporting strong growth and heightened demand for its Cloud based products. However, even Gamma’s robust business model has not fully escaped the impact of Covid-19 and some staff have taken temporary “leave of absence” while continuing to receive their full pay. Although the Group has met the criteria to make a claim under the UK Government’s Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme, management decided not to make such a claim on the grounds that that scheme was designed to protect jobs rather than to boost profits for companies who have been able to continue to trade.  With cash continuing to flow in and the balance sheet in great shape with plenty of cash, Gamma is one of the few companies confident enough to commit to the payment of a final dividend of 7.0 pence per share, up 13% on the prior year, which will cost £6.5m. Fundamental AIM portfolios hold shares in Gamma.

 

You can find out more about Fundamental’s high performing AIM portfolio service, including the latest fact sheet for May, from the link here.

Fundamental Asset Management has delivered exceptional investment returns for more than 16 years.

 


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AIM big guns falter; buying opportunity or better value elsewhere?

The shares of several of AIM’s largest, highest profile, companies have tumbled over the past few months. In this Blog, Fundamental’s Chris Boxall gives his thoughts on the lacklustre performance of some of AIM’s previous high-flyers. Could now be an excellent buying opportunity or were the share prices simply far too over-heated before.

While the fall from grace of Burford Capital (LON:BUR) has stolen the AIM headlines, several of AIM’s other £billion companies have also experienced material share price falls over the past 12 months.

Fevertree Drinks (LON: FEVR), the world’s leading supplier of premium carbonated mixers, has seen its share price slump 45% from the highs reached in August 2018 when it was basking in the perfect environment of a UK heatwave, World Cup and royal wedding. However, despite the share price falls, the shares still trade at a rather punchy 36x forecast earnings estimates for the year ending December 2019 which assume 16% growth in sales.

There is no doubting the appeal of Fevertree’s excellent products and it is a simple business to understand, however, the sky-high valuation has always left little room for error and much depends on growth outside its home UK market, which is starting to appear somewhat saturated.

Group sales in the first half of 2019 only rose 12%, which is decidedly underwhelming for a business on such a rich rating. However, 31% growth from the key US market was more encouraging with the launch of Spiced Orange and Smoky Ginger Ales set to tantalise American’s taste buds. With Fevertree already dominating its home G&T market, we remain wary that the valuation as it stands still hangs on an acceleration of growth in the US and Europe. Without the help of the mania for craft gins which helped drive growth in the UK, this looks a far trickier proposition. A cracking business and huge AIM success story nonetheless, but we are not imbibing yet.

Keywords Studios (LOMN:KWS), the technical services provider to the global video games industry, has been another soaring success on AIM, although it’s acquisition led business model is very different to that of Fevertree, whose stratospheric growth was all of its own internal making. Having acquired a large number of independent studios and underpinned by a booming sector, KWS has turned itself into a significant external development partner to leading video content creators and publishers. Sales have soared over the past few years from only €37m in 2014 to €250m in 2018, with forecasts of €319m for 2020 buoyed by acquisitions and organic growth. Much like Fevertree the shares are 45% off August 2018 highs and currently trade at a more modest 26x forecast adjusted earnings for 2019. Keyword’s acquisition led model results in plenty of adjustments to its financial statements, to the extent that it is hard for us to determine what is the likely norm going forward. We prefer companies like Fevertree where organic growth is the primary driver and have yet to be tempted by Keyword’s model.

Online fashion pioneer ASOS (LON:ASC) long held the crown as AIM’s largest company. Having slipped down to 4th place at the end of September the shares have risen 46% in October following full year results which offered much needed encouragement, pushing the market capitalisation back to £3bn moving ASOS back into second place on AIM, close behind rival Boohoo Group (LON:BOO). While the shares are more than 50% off the highs reached in January 2018 the valuation continues to challenge investors like us. With international retail sales now representing just over 60% of the group total and plenty of investment made to beef up their international operations, ASOS looks well placed to supercharge international growth. However, mass market fashion retail is hard for us to understand and we aren’t tempted to jump onboard yet.

Blue Prism Group (LON:PRSM) is a pioneer in the field of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), an emerging form of business process automation technology where a virtual workforce powered by software robots are trained to automate routine back-office clerical tasks such as form-filling and invoice generation.

Having joined in AIM in March 2016 at a share price of 78p and market capitalisation of only £48m, the shares of this much hyped, loss-making business, with revenues of only £55m in 2018, reached a high of 2635p by September 2018, pushing the market capitalisation over £1.5bn.

While revenue has grown significantly since listing, losses have also escalated as the group has increased its spending on sales and marketing in support of international growth. Revenue for the 6 months ending 30 April 2019 rose 82% to £42m, but operating losses ballooned over 500% to £35m, following material growth in sales and marketing headcount. Thankfully the business had over £100m of cash in the bank available to support this international expansion, having raised £100m in January 2019 at a price of 1100p per share.

We found it somewhat disconcerting that shortly after the material fund raise the Group’s Chief Revenue Officer decided to sell 100,000 shares (the majority of his shareholding), retaining a stake of only 50,000 shares. The subsequent sale in July 2019 of 424,000 shares by the Chief Technology Officer, netting him £6.2m, didn’t offer much comfort either.

The material share sales have been fuel for the bears pushing the share price down 67% to 866p.

While Blue Prism operates in a very exciting growth area it’s also an area which is very hard for an outsider to understand, making it extremely difficult for us to make a credible valuation judgement – just because the shares have declined more than 60% doesn’t mean they are now a bargain!

Of the above AIM heavyweights, we are keeping a close eye on Fevertree. It is highly profitable (operating margins 30%) and cash generative and operates in a sector we can understand, growing organically through its own internal development, slick marketing and expanding distribution. Unlike many of its peers, its financial statements are also mercifully free of accounting adjustments, which goes down well with us.

For further information on Fundamental’s high performing AIM portfolios please email [email protected] or speak to Chris or Stephen by calling 01923 713890.