Investment Column: Time to pick some tasty morsels from smorgasbord of flotations

Halfords; RAB Capital; Oakdene Homes; Dealogic; Moneybox
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Indigestion. It is the word on many City lips, now that fund managers have swallowed 90 flotations so far this year. They regained their appetite for new companies, all of a sudden, in March after the famine of the last few years.

Indigestion. It is the word on many City lips, now that fund managers have swallowed 90 flotations so far this year. They regained their appetite for new companies, all of a sudden, in March after the famine of the last few years.

The return of confidence after the bear market, and the coming of age of the junior AIM - where 76 companies have floated - have combined to produce this bumper crop, but institutional investors appear sated. They are turning down companies and balking at valuations that would have been acceptable in March and April.

In just the past few days, Shearings, a coach tours group, Intelligent Energy, a fuel cells company, and Gaming Bourse, a betting exchange, have pulled their listing plans. Earlier this month, the sports kit maker Umbro had to slash the asking price by a third to get its £145m flotation away.

So it is a good time to pause, look back, digest - and suggest our five picks of the bunch.

Halfords

The best of the big companies to join the main market, the retailer of bikes and car accessories has been starved of investment under previous owners, but is starting to make better use of the space across its 400 stores. It is also moving into other product areas - "boys' toys" and outdoor clothing. There are further gains to be squeezed from a rebranding exercise and better deals with its suppliers.

The shares were "priced to go" when the company floated last month and, with a dividend yield of more than 4 per cent backed by very strong cash flows, they look as if they may have go-faster stripes.

RAB Capital

Plenty of excitement was generated by the flotation of RAB Capital, the hedge fund managers Philip Richards and Michael Alen-Buckley. The only pure hedge funds company on the stock market (Man Group does other things, too), it was touted as a way of buying into this fast-growing and high-return area of the investment world - without having to stump up the six-figure sums required of individuals who invest directly in hedge funds.

RAB is risky. A big proportion of its £750m of assets under management are concentrated in the energy sectors, but it does have a strong track record and, with two funds launched last week, is proving that it is still attracting business.

Oakdene Homes

It might seem perverse to tip a housebuilder when even the Governor of the Bank of England is trying to scare people out of property. But what happens if there is a soft landing rather than a housing market crash? And is a South-east England builder like Oakdene really so risky that it must be on a price-earnings multiple of just three?

Oakdene, which moved up from the lightly regulated Ofex market a few weeks ago, specialises in building on brownfield land. As well as its new construction work, Oakdene reckons there are early profits to be made from refurbishing its portfolio of rundown investment properties on the south coast.

Dealogic

Dealogic software was used last year in 80 per cent of the world's $100m-plus initial public offerings. The technology allows investment banks to communicate with one another when marketing share issues, ensuring that the deal is priced correctly. It is complicated software for use in complicated deals, and there is also a new suite of internationally compatible products coming on the market, just as investment banks start to loosen purse strings drawn tightly during the bear market.

Dealogic's shares price has dipped 15p since flotation at 220p last month, which has made the valuation a little less racy. This looks a good investment for the long term.

Moneybox

Despite a high-profile campaign a few years back to prevent charges for withdrawing money from cash machines, a fee is still charged on one in three machines. That is because companies such as Moneybox are rolling out convenience machines in bars and clubs where the message "Are you too drunk to mind a £1.50 charge?" is usually answered "Yes".

Moneybox is the UK's second largest independent, with 2,700 machines, raking in fees from the customer and from their bank. It looks cheap compared to the value-per-machine put on other deals in this consolidating sector.

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