No Pain No Gain: England not the only losers during the World Cup
Saturday 15 July 2006
Am I on a losing streak? I hope not. Yet the No Pain, No Gain portfolio is showing an uncomfortably high collection of fallers - and most of them have been recruited in the past year or so.
Access Intelligence, Hargreaves Services, La Tasca and the admittedly dreadful Lennox are the newcomers in the red. They join Wyatt, which arrived more than three years ago.
Otherwise, the portfolio is not doing too badly although a few constituents, in line with the stock market losing some of its exuberance, have drifted from their peaks. Still, progress continues to be made with the overall profit nudging £90,000 on an investment of £195,000. As I have mentioned I intend to cap the outlay at £200,000. So just one more purchase and then recruits will be financed by the profits kitty.
Timing is an important factor in investment and it is quite clear I should have waited before alighting on Access, Hargreaves and La Tasca. Still, despite the declines, I remain relatively happy with the three shares.
Indeed, La Tasca, running Spanish-style restaurants, recently served up an outstanding set of figures. Pre-tax profits topped £5m (up from £2.4m) and there is a maiden year's dividend. Further progress will be made this year. The trouble is it may not be quite as appetising as some expected. For the incredible interest generated by the World Cup reduced the flow of customers and takings suffered. With the cost of new openings also having an impact the more heady profit expectations have been pulled back. Trading would no doubt have been hit even harder had England won the penalty shoot-out. La Tasca has encountered no more than a minor trading hiccup, I suspect.
The World Cup could also have affected the portfolio's other restaurant investment, Prezzo, one of the companies backed by the successful Kaye family. The Kayes have just launched another stock market eating-out venture, Tasty. In a few days its shares more than doubled. But Tasty shares are a very narrow market and it does not take much activity to create sharp price movements. The free float at Prezzo is much more significant although the Kayes are firmly in control with around half the capital.
The available evidence suggests that two other backsliders - Access and Hargreaves - are faring reasonably well. Interim figures are due soon from Access. For the year around £610,000 is expected. Hargreaves is trading in line with expectations and should meet profit estimates of around £6.6m.
I am disappointed by the Wyatt performance. But I have decided to stick with the shares for the time being. Chairman Bob Holt, the man behind the hugely successful Mears support services group, was not particularly upbeat at the interim stage. He did indicate that the little online services group was making some progress and I would expect losses to be reduced. The year's results, which should appear in September, will indicate whether I dump the shares.
The Lennox saga continues. Developments include the calling of a special shareholders' meeting later this month to approve the rescue financial package. According to the meeting notice shareholders representing 63.5 per cent of the capital have already indicated their support. A 75 per cent majority is needed. If the package is not approved loan note holders could cash in, costing Lennox more than £1.1m. Should they do so the two remaining directors (Ray Greenwood and Nigel Barton) make it clear that "the company would not be solvent and would have to cease to trade".
Lennox's departure would be a nasty blow to the portfolio. After all, another constituent, Profile Media, ended in the corporate graveyard earlier this year. I invest £5,000 in each constituent so a £10,000 wipeout in one year would be a humiliating experience. Lennox's demise would not, however, make much difference to the portfolio's overall performance. Its shares are, of course, valued at their dismal 4.75p price in my portfolio calculations; Profile is already written off.
On a happier note I am still awaiting the cash from the MacLellan take over. The support services group is being acquired by Interserve, which is in a similar line of business, in a £116m cash and shares deal. I opted for the cash mix and match facility and I should receive payment early next month.
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