Small Companies Notebook: Bond rides the wave of recruitment success

A mini-conglomerate - Strong motivation - Car salvage - Watch this media - Good as platinum
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The Independent Online

Bond International Software looks like a small company that is going places. Last week its shares hit a new high for the year of 62.5p after the group, which provides software to the recruitment industry, announced yet another contract win for its Adapt product. The deal is worth £500,000 and comes shortly after of a similar contract last month with Spring Group.

Bond International Software looks like a small company that is going places. Last week its shares hit a new high for the year of 62.5p after the group, which provides software to the recruitment industry, announced yet another contract win for its Adapt product. The deal is worth £500,000 and comes shortly after of a similar contract last month with Spring Group.

Bond presents interim results today and they are tipped to add to the positive momentum behind its shares. Pre-tax profits will have soared to about £500,000, from £155,000 in 2003. By the end of its current financial year, brokers predict profits to hit £1.4m and soar to £2.4m in 2005.

We know that the recruitment market is recovering well, given recent figures from the industry giant Michael Page, and as this pick-up gathers speed so should demand for Bond's software. The group's acquisition of EZ Access in March is another driver of growth at the company.

Investors should keep an eye on what Bond says today about the performance of this business which, word has it, has already been successfully integrated by the company into its existing operations.

A mini-conglomerate

London & Boston is a former investment company that is turning itself into a mini- conglomerate. It has already made three acquisitions, all of profitable businesses, and is believed to be eyeing up another two. With a market capitalisation of just £13m, L&B shares have been overlooked by investors.

The group's Audio Tel unit, which specialises in surveillance equipment, made a profit of £530,000 last year, while its specialist packaging business, Moore & Buckle, made £860,000. L&B's most profitable asset, PSG, a provider of property search services to solicitors, made £2m last year. That totals £3.3m profit from L&B's operating subsidiaries, and this should have grown by a good margin by the end of this financial year. And there is more. From L&B's days as an investment company it retains stakes worth more than £2m in five listed companies, two of which are on Nasdaq.

Bob Morton, the serial entrepreneur, has a 15 per cent holding in L&B and is a man with a long record of making money from investing in smaller companies.

Strong motivation

P&MM Group, a recent addition to AIM, specialises in giving advice to companies on how to motivate staff and handles product promotions and launches. In July it enhanced the size of its promotions division through buying Fotorama, a rival owned by the French advertising giant Havas.

Apparently the deal has proved a major success and the business is already fully integrated into the P&MM fold. This will emerge at the group's interim results at the end of the month, as will news of a series of new client wins.

Car salvage

Something of a buzz surrounded shares in Universal Salvage last week as they continued their rally from historic lows. Given its lowly valuation, a growing number of brokers believe that the car salvage specialist is a sitting duck for a predator.

On Friday, the group's stock closed at 76.5p compared with an all-time high of 508p in mid-2002. Aside from its operating business, which in its heyday could generate annual profits of more than £6m, the group has an extensive land bank. In April it secured planning permission for the redevelopment of a nine-acre site in Hertfordshire.

Watch this media

The cash shell Silvermines Media came to market in July and raised £650,000 at 5p with the aim of making an acquisition in the, yes you guessed it, media and publishing sector.

Word has it the group is mulling a deal which would see a £60m company injected into the shell. According to one broker close to Silvermines, a deal could be as near as six weeks away if the group's directors decide to press the go button. Watch this space.

Good as platinum

Lapp Plats, the Scandinavia-focused nickel and platinum miner, is said to be preparing a bullish exploration update. The statement is tipped to be issued today and should see the group boast of positive developments at its sites in northern Sweden.

Lapp Plats is 58 per cent owned by Minmet, the Dublin- and London-listed gold mining specialist, and floated on the Ofex market at the start of the year.

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