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Halfords Group

A service-led proposition

QuickView | Consumer staples | 25 May 2018

Halfords has a compelling, differentiated brand strategy that will help it continue to grow its core Motoring and Cycling market shares. Services remain at the heart of the business and investment in this area is expected to accelerate. With earnings expectations now reset and management outlook understandably cautious, we believe that investor focus will now be on the new CEO's strategic update in September.

Deutsche Beteiligungs

Market decline weighs on H118 performance

Review | Investment Companies | 25 May 2018

Deutsche Beteiligungs (DBAG) reported €19.3m net income for the first half of FY18, with a 4.5% dividend-adjusted NAV return. NAV per share declined slightly to €29.43 at end-March 2018, after payment of the €1.40 FY17 dividend. Management has lowered earnings guidance for FY18 due to a decline in market valuation multiples that also weighed on returns in the first half, while the underlying progress of portfolio companies remains broadly on track. The recent sharp decline in the share price premium to NAV to 19.6% suggests the market may now be applying an underlying discount to the NAV of the private equity investment portfolio.

EQS Group

Investment on plan

Update | Media | 24 May 2018

EQS’s Q118 report shows performance in line with expectations, with 13% top-line growth and higher investment pushing the group into an EBITDA loss. All is on track for a Q418 launch of the new COCKPIT web-based product platform and our forecasts for FY18e, FY19e and FY20e are unchanged. New KPIs and segmental reporting highlight a strong recurring revenue base and will clarify the growth dynamics of customer numbers and associated revenues. EQS’s markets remain attractive, with corporate obligations become more numerous and complex, underpinning the rating.

2G Energy

Participating in the green energy revolution

Update | Alternative Energy | 24 May 2018

2G Energy continues to diversify its activities, expanding export markets and developing service revenues, so that it is less exposed to changes in the regulatory environment for renewables and CHP in Germany. This supported a 9% y-o-y increase in FY17 sales to a record EUR 189.4m, and EBIT margin rise from 3.2% to 3.9%, both ahead of management expectations.

Stride Gaming

Looking beyond the UK

Update | Travel & Leisure | 23 May 2018

The entire UK gaming sector has been stung by recent regulatory changes and, like other operators, Stride's strategy is to diversify its UK-centric model into international markets. In the UK, the company is gaining market share, with H118 adjusted revenues increasing 14% to £44.9m, driven by 25% growth in the proprietary platform. However, we have lowered our total FY18 and FY19 EBITDA forecasts by 16.6% and 28.7% to reflect increased costs associated with regulatory compliance and international expansion. The stock has fallen 18% year to date and trades at 8.3x EV/EBITDA and 13.4x P/E for CY18e.

Takung Art

Growing the retail base

Update | Media | 22 May 2018

Takung Art’s Q118 results show it is making progress at reorienting its user base more towards the retail market, which significantly increases its potential reach. There has also been some success in the quarter in increasing the average listing values of the items listed on the trading platform and in diversifying the offering, with five new pieces of sports memorabilia listed in the period. The FY17 reconstruction makes direct comparison with Q117 figures of limited use. The share price is yet to reflect the scale or quality of the potential opportunity.

The Merchants Trust

FY18 outperformance continuing in FY19

Review | Investment Companies | 22 May 2018

The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is managed by Simon Gergel at AllianzGI. He aims to generate a high and growing level of income, with the potential for long-term capital growth, from a portfolio of UK equities. The manager considers there are great opportunities in the UK stock market for high-yield investors, and that in aggregate UK stocks are looking attractively valued compared to global equities. MRCH has a distinguished dividend history; payouts have grown in each of the last 36 consecutive years. In FY18, the annual distribution was 2.5% higher than in FY17 – a larger growth rate than in recent years, reflecting higher dividend growth from portfolio companies, but also due to MRCH’s lower interest costs following the refinancing of a tranche of its high-cost debt in late 2017.

ReNeuron Group

The rise of the exosome

Update | Pharmaceutical & healthcare | 22 May 2018

ReNeuron introduced its exosome nanomedicine programme at its recent capital markets day. While being a preclinical programme, it has three significant advantages. First, it gives ReNeuron the potential to expand into new therapeutic indications. Second, it opens up the potential for collaborations in diagnostics and drug delivery. Third, it builds on its wealth of experience and IP and on its CTX cell line on which ReNeuron’s existing products and the exosome platform are built.

Be Heard Group

Playing to its strengths

QuickView | Media | 22 May 2018

Be Heard is building a group of digital marketing specialists, with five partner companies increasingly working together in a process that should become smoother once they are co-located. Last year's trading issues have been resolved and new business momentum is good, with some pitches now carried out under the group banner. The management team has been reconfigured and responsibilities clarified, with unified procedures and financial reporting being put in place. Consensus sees strong revenue growth in FY18e, with operating margins starting to build, which should then be reflected in an improving rating.

Be Heard Group

Executive interview - Be Heard Group

Edison TV: | Media | 22 May 2018

Peter Scott, chief executive, and Simon Pyper, the newly installed CFO, talk through Be Heard’s business model and how it is differentiated from other agency groups. They also discuss key elements of the FY17 figures, and the outstanding earnout liabilities from the acquired partner companies and associated funding. They describe how the business is adapting to the shifting marketing services environment and the potential catalysts for growth over the next couple of years.

Witan Investment Trust

Adding to its record of outperformance

Review | Investment Companies | 21 May 2018

Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) has employed an active multi-manager strategy since 2004, offering investors diverse exposure to global equities. In 2017, the trust delivered another year of outperformance versus its composite benchmark, which it has surpassed over the last one, three, five and 10 years. WTAN’s investment director, James Hart, believes that equities can continue to offer attractive returns for the patient investor, although he notes that stock market volatility is now higher than the benign levels experienced in 2017. In this environment, he believes that active stock picking, rather than blanket equity exposure, should produce better returns for investors. WTAN has a progressive dividend policy; its annual distribution has increased for the last 43 consecutive years.

Palace Capital

Continuing to move ahead

Outlook | Property | 21 May 2018

With its move to the Main Market of the LSE completed, Palace recently provided an update on trading for the year to March 2018, ahead of preliminary results on 11 June. Management expects to report adjusted earnings (excluding revaluation movements and other one-offs) ahead of market expectations. Looking forward, the portfolio, enlarged by the RT Warren acquisition, offers significant asset management opportunities, while management seeks further accretive acquisitions, neither of which is reflected in our estimates. The shares offer an attractive yield and trade at a significant discount to NAV.