Derek Pain: At last, some signs of life at green TEG

No Pain, No Gain
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The Independent Online

TEG, one of the No Pain, No Gain portfolio's small-cap constituents, is showing signs of justifying the faith of its long-term shareholders. The composting technology group has performed miserably since being recruited in November last year at 8p a time. The price slumped in response to a rescue cash call in June but last week came a shaft of hope as what appears to be a rewarding and significant contract was finalised.

The group, in conjunction with environmental funds, some set up by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is establishing a green facility at Dagenham which should be functioning in the first quarter of 2014. TEG will have a 24.5 per cent stake in the company that will run the operation. In addition it will build the plant, producing around £16m of revenue for the group, and then operate the cutting-edge development for a fee starting at £1.3m a year.

When completed, Dagenham will absorb 49,000 tonnes of food and green waste a year, producing, in addition to such essentials as agricultural compost, sufficient electricity for 2,000 homes.

So, suddenly, it's good vibrations for TEG. It has recently produced the type of display that drives shareholders to distraction. The shares were once about 150p. Although promise abounded, it seemed destined to become one of those forever jam tomorrow companies.

Last year, the shares fell sharply on a surprise cash call and earlier this year came the rather urgent request for more money. The portfolio invests only £5,000 in each member and is, therefore, unable to indulge pleas for more cash. In the event, it would have scored by subscribing for its share entitlement.

This year's £2m injection was at 3p a share. With the shares now approaching 6p, the portfolio's overall investment would have looked much more encouraging. TEG has clearly indicated that it is on the right route in this fledgling and still controversial green business and may soon rid itself of the unhelpful "promises, promises" tag.

Another constituent, Animalcare, is also adding to its armoury. The animal medicines group has produced a new drug – one of four scheduled this year – to help ageing dogs. The potential market is estimated at £1.5m a year. The shares edged ahead but are still well below the portfolio's recruitment level.

Figures have emerged from other constituents. Whitbread, the leisure group, produced a 14.8 per cent first quarter sales growth but the Spirit Pub Co had to contend with a modest slowdown. The budget hotels, coffee shops and pub/restaurants chain is one of the portfolio's success stories. The shares, as I write, are 2,300p, compared with 1,105p when enlisted in the summer of 2008. I recall that around that time and for two or three years afterwards, some were sceptical about Whitbread's ability to withstand recessionary influences. But it has survived with something to spare.

Spirit was until last year part of Punch Taverns, so it is difficult to assess its performance over a number of years. But in its brief independent life, it has performed well. Its maiden results as a quoted company are, I suggest, going to look impressive despite the slowdown in growth in the final three months of its year.

The managed pub chain continued to roll out cheerful figures with sales up 4.1 per cent and the year's advance put at 4.8 per cent. The leased estate, however, remains a problem with net income down 5.4 per cent, making a year's fall of 4.9 per cent.

The pub chain is reducing its leased involvement, selling some outlets and switching a few to management. With rent reviews taking place, a fall in income is not surprising as earlier levels were fixed in happier times. The portfolio acquired the shares at 42p; they are around 55p after topping 60p.

Finally, Northern Petroleum, the oil and gas explorer and producer, reported interim pre-tax profits of €2.4m (£1.9m) against €689,000. With €28.2m in the bank, the group seems to be in a strong position to pursue its promising Italian explorations.

It also has a tiny stake in what appears to be a major strike off South America. The shares hover around the portfolio's buying price.

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