Category: Company analysis

Small-Cap Spotlight Report: Norcros

Small-Cap Spotlight Report: Norcros

Let me start by confessing this article covers pension deficits. What follows may not be that thrilling and does require you to concentrate. But please stick with me, especially if you have ever fallen victim to a ‘value trap’. A burdensome pension scheme is a common reason why companies trade on permanently low ratings. The […]

Turning over even more rocks

Here is a slice of stockmarket history for you, an interview with Peter Lynch from 1996. Lynch was a famous American fund manager. Asked the secret of his success, he replied: “Well, I think flexibility is one of the key things… I always thought there were good opportunities everywhere and I researched my stocks myself… […]

The Trader: Trading Turnarounds

Everyone likes a turnaround. This is because people like the idea of buying at the bottom and reaping the rewards. However, trading turnarounds can take a lot of time. Businesses are often slow to change and it is not a quick process. This article will show you how to trade some potential turnaround stocks and […]

Small-Cap Spotlight Report: Argo Blockchain

Let’s start with a wealth warning: This article covers bitcoin miner Argo Blockchain; I am not a bitcoin expert; The bitcoin price is highly unpredictable; Argo’s share price is highly unpredictable, and; Argo issues frequent updates. The upshot is my logic and calculations may be completely wrong or out-of-date by the time you read what […]

The second most important ratio

If you look DotDigital, as I did a few years ago, you will find much to like about the business: Source: SharePad financial summary It is highly profitable in terms of Return on Capital Employed and profit margin. The exciting thing about a company like this is, as long as it can reinvest the cash […]

Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: IG Group

For some time now IG Group has been flashing on my SharePad filters. The three screenshots just below show IG offers: High margins; Decent returns on equity; Cash-rich accounts; Attractive five-year growth; A lack of past acquisitions, and; A modest P/E. Those characteristics are an unusual mix in a market presently bereft of obvious quality […]

Roll up! Get yer easy returns here…

Bunzl, a company I investigated last year, is a classic roll up A distributor of everyday items consumed by businesses and organisations, it routinely acquires much smaller distributors, improves their efficiency and creates economies of scale. This reduces customer’s procurement costs, and improves the profitability of the mothership. To grow, the company has repeated this […]

Small-Cap Spotlight Report: LoopUp

Welcome to a series of occasional articles in which I shine an investigative spotlight on particular small-caps. My aim is to demonstrate how to analyse companies in SharePad and beyond to help you become a more informed investor. I start today with LoopUp (LOOP), a £44 million developer of software for remote meetings and conference […]

Annual reports made simple

Happy New year. This year, I have resolved to keep things simple, which is not easy in investing. Aide memoire… Just before Christmas Chris, a SharePad customer, emailed me with a request: When I look at company reports which often run to a couple of hundred pages I find the position somewhat daunting… It would […]

Lessons from lockdown and other stories

This year has confirmed that most of the news is at best irrelevant to me as an investor. Worse, the news stressed me out. It regularly fed my mind with impossible problems to solve. Companies I admired closed down, temporarily I hoped. They raised money in emergency fund-raisings. They furloughed staff. So far, the determination […]

Nichols: More than Vimto

Having prospected for investments in the soft drinks industry, I think Nichols is perhaps the most intriguing of quite an interesting group. It has been enormously profitable and a steady grower, unlike the other candidate, Fever-Tree, which has experienced both extraordinary profit and extraordinary growth. Fever-Tree makes me nervous. Explosive growers rarely keep growing rapidly […]

Investing through the pandemic

When I told my wife I was researching Hotel Chocolat and my first action would be to buy some chocolate, she reminded me that the most important thing about research is to include lots of participants. Scuttlebutting chocolate 70% dark chocolate promised to be our optimal pleasure point, and so it was. When I brought […]

Floored

James Halstead makes vinyl flooring, the kind we see in hospital corridors, GP surgeries, clinics, schools, offices, laboratories, prisons, factories, shops, trains and boats around the world. James Halstead’s biggest brand is Polyflor. The company’s social media accounts are a good way to get a feel for the product and you can take the Commercial […]

Don’t waste a good crisis

Before I started fishing for a share to investigate for this week’s article, I culled my personal filter library. Many of the filters are derivations, refinements that effectively render older filters redundant. Some are failed experiments. Being a simple sole, I cut the library down to four: The old ones are the good ones – […]

What does not kill a business can make it stronger

This article was not supposed to be about paper maker James Cropper. I set out to write about Animalcare, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, but I quickly became disillusioned, wretched even. You probably will hear about Animalcare one day, because it is an interesting business, but it is also complicated and its complicatedness was epitomised by […]

This time is different for Design Group

If you watch Design Group’s annual results presentation, you may detect a bashful smile on chief executive Paul Fineman’s face. Paul Fineman, chief executive of Design Group. Source: Design Group Full Year Results 2020 (video). Despite unexpected tariffs on products imported into the USA from China and the onset of the pandemic, Design Group was […]

A safety first stock

I found James Latham a couple of months ago when I was trawling for cheap shares with strong balance sheets. The shares are still cheap, James Latham’s Price Earnings (PE) ratio is 13, and the balance sheet should remain strong… Centuries trading timber James Latham has a long and storied history. It manufactured plywood for […]

UK banks – in the eye of the storm?

Every crisis presents opportunities. A contrarian strategy of buying bank shares during the point of maximum gloom during a recession has often, but not always, been a good idea. It most definitely failed in 2008 when banks needed to raise capital and had to rely on Government bail outs. But it has worked in previous […]

Making a new discoverIE

I discovered discoverIE using a simple and fruitful method of finding new investment ideas: a list of shares sorted in SharePad by previous annual report date. Having squinted for a few minutes at financial charts showing profitability, cashflow and debt (more on that later), I thought the company looked promising: Sorting a list in SharePad […]

Volex: Reassuringly above average

If you’ve read my recent articles you will know I have been ranking shares using basic financial statistics. I found Bioventix by ranking five criteria. The objective was to find profitable companies mostly financed by equity rather than debt, with high quality assets and low valuations. The more profitable, the more conservatively financed, and the […]

Ranking potential bargains

A SharePad customer, Chris, reminded me of the power of ranking recently, when he emailed to say (among other things): “I find that I am playing with spreadsheets to get the data in place rather than actually making decisions. I guess sometimes too much data can be detrimental…” Decisions are hard, and messing around with […]

Getting to grips with software companies

First, an admission. The software biz is a bit of a mystery to me. There’s a vast ecosystem of enterprise solutions, software that businesses increasingly need to operate, but how do those of us whose technical skills extend little further than Word and Excel decide whether these solutions and the companies that code them are […]

The changing shape of QinetiQ

I have picked QinetiQ from my “Cash King” filter because it was one of the more reasonably priced companies that passed all the criteria. It’s debt-adjusted PE ratio is 14. QinetiQ makes Rattler, a supersonic target that simulates air-launched anti-radiation missiles. Source: QinetiQ annual report 2019 The company is a defence technology business, once part […]

In search of the cash kings

While the stock market and the pandemic may have stabilised, I’m still thinking about financially strong firms. We never know when the next shock will happen, and a cash cushion gives us confidence a company will make it through when revenue melts away. I spent the last two articles experimenting with filters to find financially […]

Filtering for financial fortresses

The conclusion of my last article on finding companies with strong finances contained two caveats. Companies with seasonal cash flows can look like they have strong finances at the end of the financial year, when they report, but be weaker at other times during the financial year. Also, strong finances are not necessarily the result […]

Putting safety first

Funny thing (peculiar, not ha! ha!). Search SharePad news for the phrase “strong balance sheet” and there are dozens of companies every day confirming their finances are strong as they reflect on the prospect of reduced, or in some cases, no revenue for a while. Search SharePad news for the phrase “weak balance sheet” though […]

Getting more out of return on capital

How we measure return on capital depends on what we want to know: whether a company is good at making profit from its operations, or whether it is good at buying other businesses. As I write, the stockmarket is crashing. I have invested in strong businesses that should prosper through thick and thin, but that […]

Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: AB Dynamics

Recent market ructions have sent many shares tumbling — and perhaps created some buying opportunities. Amid the mayhem, I devised a straightforward screen. I simply looked for decent-sized businesses that were still expected to grow, paid a dividend and were conservatively financed, too I applied the following criteria within SharePad to identify some respectable candidates: […]

Taking back control

Richard investigates Dialight, a supplier of industrial LED lighting that flared up ten years ago briefly setting the stock market alight, and subsequently dimmed alarmingly. What are its prospects now it is taking back control of manufacturing? Ten years ago Dialight was a feted, fast growing business in a booming industry, LED lighting, but it […]

XP POWER

Older readers may recall a distant era when electrical devices used to plug straight into the wall. Nowadays, everything electrical seems to need an annoying little box between it and the wall. That box is called a power supply and these are the business of XP Power. But not the annoying ones. XP doesn’t do […]

Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: Boohoo

Cash flow movements can often indicate whether or not a business enjoys a powerful operational advantage. A strong business might: Receive customer payments upfront for goods/services it has yet to deliver, and/or; Pay suppliers months after goods/services have been received. However, a weak business might: Receive customer payments months after its goods/services have been delivered, […]

When bad news is good news

Richard investigates Vitec, which has reported some bad news in 2019. It could be an opportunity to buy shares in a high quality business at a low valuation. I don’t always follow up on reader suggestions, sometimes people recommend companies so repugnant it’s difficult to believe they have ever read a line of mine. But […]

Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: Greggs

‘Run your winners’ is popular stock-market advice. Great companies often remain great investments for a lot longer than most people expect… … and can deliver life-changing rewards to anyone who refrains from selling out too soon. Where can we find potential winners to run? I thought the best performing shares of 2019 would provide a […]

Out with the old, in with the new

Richard enters 2020 with a cleaned-up SharePad setup primed to help him find companies developing competitive advantages. He expects it to make him a better long-term investor too. Happy New Year! As a full time writer/investor the festive season is the only set time in the year when I fully shut down. Like an ancient […]

Alpha FX speaks my language

In response to a reader’s suggestion, Richard investigates Alpha FX. It is exactly the kind of people-first business that could be building a long-term competitive advantage and consequently grow inexorably. As I was considering what to write about for my last article before the Christmas break, a present from a reader arrived in my inbox. […]

Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: Mears

This article has not turned out as I had expected. I searched on SharePad for magnificent dividend histories, and thought I would be evaluating a business with glorious financials and tip-top management. I have instead ended up with accounting alarm bells and a dissident shareholder trying to oust the boardroom. The screen I applied in […]

The ultimate competitive advantage

Business schools identify the sources of competitive advantage that tie customers to companies and what they produce. Fundamentally though, there is only one true competitive advantage: people. If I could recommend one book for long-term investors, it would be “Intelligent Fanatics Project” by Sean Iddings and Ian Cassell, which is subtitled “How great leaders build […]

Burberry joins “Future of Fashion” portfolio

In his quest for companies that control their own destinies, Richard discovers luxury fashion brand Burberry, a company whose products he is in no danger of buying. Last time, I promised to investigate one of the shares I found while filtering for vertically integrated companies, companies that control their own destinies because they control many […]

KAINOS

THE SETTING Kainos (Greek for fresh, innovative) was launched in 1986 when the old British IT champion ICL recognised the quality of computer science graduates from Queen’s University Belfast. ICL had a new project involving electricity network analysis and Queen’s had just set up one of the first university incubator companies, Qubis, which was keen […]

Filtering out the big spenders

Richard invents a new filter that promises to weed out big acquirers in a drive for simplicity he hopes will make investigating his next company easier. Complications tend to keep investors awake at night and wakeful nights are not conducive to long-term investment. You join me today on a quest for simplicity. Keeping it simple […]

The future of holidays portfolio

Richard returns from his holiday and wonders whether he can put the experience to use by investing in holiday companies. First step: Create a portfolio of holiday companies. It is early September, so I am going to take a wild guess and assume you have been on holiday. Hopefully it was a good one. Mine […]

Why shorting is good for investors

Although I am much more of a trader myself as I rely on trading profits to pay my bills, I do think investors have much to be gained learning from the art of short selling stocks. There are several reasons that will be explained in this article, but first it is important to understand what […]

Hidden potential in new division

Richard analyses Bloomsbury Publishing’s segmental report to work out where the profit is coming from. The Harry Potter effect is still evident, but the company is conjuring up another source of profit without recourse to magic. My last article ended on something of a cliffhanger because I had found something out, but I did not […]

Finding the best companies to analyse

A wise man once advised investors to stick to their circle of competence. Richard uses SharePad to keep his eye on the prize, and it leads him to Bloomsbury Publishing… My base filter in SharePad currently returns a total of 596 shares listed in London. It does not do anything clever. It just excludes the […]

Screening For My Next Long-Term Winner: AG Barr

Quality companies undergoing temporary problems can often become attractive investment opportunities. On that basis, perhaps AG Barr is worth closer inspection. The soft-drinks manufacturer famous for Irn-Bru recently warned that profits would be lower than expected… and the share price plunged accordingly: However, AG Barr does boast a quality track record. During the last 40 […]

How to work out whether a firm is good acquirer

Richard uses a trick from Judges Scientific’s playbook to assess local hero Scientific Digital Imaging. Both companies acquire scientific instrument manufacturers using a “buy and build strategy”. Last month we worked out how to populate Google Maps with SharePad data to find local companies to invest in. Today, we will take the process a stage […]

The Future of Retail portfolio

Rule number one in investing is to buy what you know, but how does that work when what you know is changing day by day? Richard grapples with clothing and fashion retailers, who are themselves grappling with the emergence of the Internet. Just about every type of retailing is going through profound change thanks to […]

Weekly commentary: 17/06/19

It’s “avoid the warnings” time Last week saw a few profit warnings. Somero, Ted Baker, Quiz, Pendragon warnings were based on revenue disappointments but I suspect cost pressures are building too at the moment. The trend of increasing warnings appears to be a growth trend with Q1 showing the highest number of warnings in this […]

Checking the numbers match the story

One thing we should always check is that a company’s long-term performance matches the story it tells us. Churchill China says it is “adding value” to tableware, a horrible bit of jargon that is easily corroborated in SharePad. I received a nasty shock last time I reviewed one of my long-standing investments. Familiarity, I said, […]

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