Shareholders in virtual queuing system company Lo-Q (LOQ) will be pleased with more good news - Dolly Parton's "Dollywood" theme park has extended the duration of an existing contract, and is to also install the system in a second theme park. I was tempted to make a joke about water parks and buoyancy aids, but thought better of it.
I totally understand that LOQ is a terrific growth company, but that valuation is looking really stretched now - almost 3 times sales, for a company with a fairly standard, sub-10% profit margin. 25 times 2012/13 forecast earnings is pretty eye-watering, but the market clearly believes strong growth will continue.
Badly-worded RNS of the day award goes to Ubisense (UBI) with their schizophrenic trading update, which starts off sounding like a profits warning, gradually warms up, and then ends up sounding positive. It's just all wrong.
Take this sentence for example:
"The Group has displayed good momentum in the second half of the period but timing of some projects has led to revenue growth below market expectations and profitability in line with consensus expectations for the full year."
The ridiculous quote-driven market for small caps is just not working. Yesterday was another example, where I wanted to buy shares in Craneware (CRW), but faced a ludicrous 15p spread to buy at 400p. So with dealing commission, I'm looking at an instant loss of over 4%. Forget it! So the trade didn't happen.
Instead we need to move to an order-driven market, where potential buyers & sellers are free to just directly put their own orders onto an electronic order book, where deals are matched. There is no need for market makers at all, they're an unnecessary link in the chain, and they impede market liquidity, and load avoidable cost onto transactions. Their neutral book policy is a contradiction in terms! Could a market trader sell vegetables if he had a nil stock policy?! It's absurd.I fully support ShareSoc's robust submission to the LSE on their recent consultation on the trading of small company shares, which can be seen here:
It is high time that something was done about this, and many other issues too. For example Placings - why can't these just be thrown open electronically to all existing shareholders first, then outside shareholders, through an online auction process, with participants having pre-registered as capable investors beforehand? We have the technology to do this, but we don't use it. Our markets are 20 years (or more!) behind where they could be, in terms of technology & innovation, and I'm sure that holds back smaller growth companies, making it unnecessarily difficult for them to tap into sources of fresh equity.
Ideagen (IDEA) issues Interims to 31 Oct 2012. Whilst up 51%, turnover is only £2.6m (bear in mind the mkt cap is £20m), but they have a high profit margin, with adjusted EBITDA up 47% to £0.75m for the 6 months. They also raised £6m post period end, in a Placing at around the current share price. I don't know anything about the company, so can't value it, because smaller growth companies are all about assessing the growth potential, and then forming a valuation around that. Whereas my value investing approach is more about looking at ongoing cashflows, divis, and assets.
Things seem to be going well at Netcall (NET). We met the CEO at a Mello event some time ago, and it sounded a decent company. He sticks in my mind because he had one of the most bizarre accents I've ever heard, which I hope it's not offensive to mention - think half Geordie, half Swedish, and you're in the right ballpark!
Their trading update today for the 6m to 31 Dec 2012 reads well: trading "comfortably in line" with expectations, strong order inflows, double digit sales growth. Net cash of £8.2m also! The valuation looks pretty reasonable, despite the shares having had a good run already. A PER of 13, for a company where a fifth of the mkt cap is net cash, is not expensive, given that they are performing well too.
Finally, I note that Stuart Rose has appeared as the new Chairman of Ocado (OCDO). What on earth is he thinking of?! Mind you, a key feature of Rose's career in the 15 years or so I've been aware of him, is that he has an uncanny skill in timing his entry into companies when the heavy lifting of a turnaround has already been done, but hasn't yet come through in the figures. So he gets the glory for the turnaround, without actually having to do much work. That's exactly what happened at Arcadia, Bookers, and M&S. So perhaps his exquisite timing is a signal that Ocado may not be the basket-case that many of us think it is?
OK, that's it for now. Have a good day, and see you same time tomorrow morning.
(Paul does not hold any positions in the companies mentioned today)
Filed Under: Smallcaps,