We have interim results from a couple of small cap growth stocks today. First was a long time favourite of mine S&U plc (SUS) the £237m market cap. motor finance group. Despite all the talk recently of potential problems in the car finance area and in particular the PCP area, they point out that they have no exposure to that type of lending. In addition the 20% or so growth that they reported today is a continuation of the growth trend they have seen for the last 17 years in this business. See the full RNS announcement for more detail on this in the commentary from the Chairman Anthony Coombs.
Talking of the Chairman's statement there were a couple of things in there that did give me some cause for concern, although on balance I'll give them the benefit of the doubt given their track record up to now. For the record though these were the fact that bad debt provisions were up sharply despite the strong employment background that was referenced in the statement. This was explained by Mr. Coombs as follows:
"Although a return, for competition reasons, to Advantage's traditional customer mix has seen an increase in impairment to revenue, risk adjusted yield has been protected by good interest rates. Indeed, current levels of impairment are significantly below those experienced just five years ago following the financial crisis, when the business continued to increase profits and maintained very good returns on capital employed."
Not quite sure what they mean by for competition reasons, may be they had tried to go up market & found more competition and so had to return to lower scoring higher risk customers to maintain the growth perhaps? The other thing that bothered me in this part of the statement and allied to that was mention of the fact that a refined Delphi 10 based scorecard system had been introduced. This might be a better explanation for the sharp jump in bad debts perhaps? I think this will need watching after the Provident Financial debacle recently where they messed up by changing a long standing way of doing business, although in this case the change does not seem as dramatic as in that case.
Aside from that the dividend was up by a pleasant 16.7% but the debt continues to rise to fund the growth, but remains relatively low for a finance business. Meanwhile the nascent Bridging Loan business is looking like it will be second half weighted after a slower start than expected. Assuming there is nothing in these numbers to change the forecasts dramatically this should therefore leave it on a reasonable looking sub 10x PE with a 5%+ yield with strong growth. The shares are up this morning back into the 2000 - 2600p range that they had been trading in, so it will be interesting to see if they can sustain a move back into this range in the short term. Or if they will be sold off again this might confirm the recent break down into a new lower range of 1500 -2000p perhaps, although be aware I don't claim to be a chartist.
Second up today, in brief was another Small Cap growth stock, the £213m Market Cap. Taptica (TAP) which is Israeli based and provides mobile advertising and has recently made an acquisition to move into the Video area too. In addition to this recent acquisition they have in the past made some other smaller acquisitions in their core area of mobile advertising to expand their geographic reach into Japan in addition to the UK, China, US & South Korea. In the statement they say they have ambitions beyond these areas to expand into ten hubs worldwide in the next three years to make it Russia, China, Germany, San Francisco, New York, Korea, Japan, India, South America and the UK. Thus it seems there should still be plenty of growth potential from geographic expansion in addition to their move into video advertising more recently & growth in advertising moving more onto mobile channels from more traditional areas like print and broadcast media.
Any way if it is of any interest I suggest you read the RNS and visit their website for more details and there was a conference call this morning too. The shares also look cheap for the growth they are delivering trading on about 12x falling to 10x for 2018, although the yield is lower than I normally like to see at just 1.7%.
The only other reason I mention it is that this is another example of one of those potentially unpalatable looking stocks which therefore trades cheaply and therefore scores well on quantitative systems like Stockopedia where it has a StockRank of 88 and on our own Compound Income Scores where is scores a maximum 100. So if you can get your head around the business and are not put off by it being a foreign company then it might be worth a look, but there's probably not enough in these numbers for it to challenge recent highs I suspect, although the shares are up this morning after recent weakness prior to the figures.