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Small caps, big ambitions: 5 AIM stocks to buy now
There are many interesting businesses on the AIM market which fly under the radar as they do not get the same attention as their counterparts on the Main Market. Research coverage by analysts is thin, AIM stocks aren’t discussed much in the media, and only fund managers with a mandate to look at small companies might even be aware of their existence.
This means there is a big opportunity for investors to consider buying shares for their ISAs or SIPPs in the best of these under the radar companies before rapid growth or a breakthrough brings them to the market’s attention and lights a fire under the share price.
Successfully picking a small cap winner can be both fun and lucrative, although this is also a high-risk area of the market as there are plenty of companies which fail, so investors should only use money they can afford to lose.
Small cap stocks are often more volatile, meaning they can experience wild share price swings up and down. It can also be harder to buy and sell them at the price you want compared to more liquid large cap stocks such as those in the FTSE 100 index.
Often smaller companies will dilute existing shareholders by issuing new shares to help fund their goals. But these increased risks are balanced out by their greater growth potential.
It is difficult for a FTSE 100 company to double its earnings or market valuation, but it is a lot easier for a smaller business to achieve this feat.
Just look at an outfit like podcast specialist Audioboom (BOOM:AIM). In the last three years its market value has increased nearly eight-fold and its revenue has increased from $22.2 million to $60.2 million, and it notched up its first profit. The company is now reaping the rewards of having positioned itself over several years to benefit from the rapid growth in the podcast medium.
Plenty of AIM firms have a great story to tell yet their ambitions are often thwarted by financial problems, poor management decisions or just plain bad luck.
It is crucial to do thorough research and make sure the company you are interested in, at the very least, has a solid business strategy, is transparent in its dealings with the market and has directors whose interests are aligned with those of ordinary shareholders.
To help with your investment research, Shares has looked at the AIM market and identified five stocks which have interesting qualities.
ANPARIO (ANP:AIM) 635p
Specialist feed additive supplier Anpario (ANP:AIM) should see a step-change in organic growth as its markets recover from the pandemic and its products penetrate the aquaculture industry.
The £148 million business provides sustainable, plant-based products to livestock farms and aquaculture worldwide.
Key end markets are in dairy, poultry, pork and fish, with Anpario’s products including acidifiers, enzymes and essential oils. It is the company behind a natural feed additive/flavour called Orego-Stim.
The company is profiting as food producers around the world transition to natural feed solutions and away from banned feed additives such as antibiotic growth promoters.
Regulation is a tailwind for the business, with antibiotic growth promoters already blocked in China and the EU and other countries likely to follow due to worries over human antibiotic resistance.
Crucially, Anpario’s products are essential for customers, enabling the company to pass on cost inflation through price increases.
In January Anpario reported a ‘strong operating performance’ for 2021 despite pandemic-induced supply chain issues and inflationary pressures, generating growth across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the Americas.
Broker Canaccord Genuity eyes the resumption of double-digit growth and the potential for a substantial, earnings-accretive acquisition.
For the year to December 2022, Shore Capital forecasts pre-tax profit of £5.9 million (2021: £5.7 million) on sales up 4.5% to £34.5 million, and Anpario is forecast to finish the year with the best part of £20 million net cash.
Based on estimated earnings of 22.9p and a 9.9p dividend, Anpario isn’t cheap on a forward price to earnings multiple of 27.7 with a 1.6% yield. Yet as investor Chris Hutchinson, manager of the Unicorn AIM VCT (UAV), explains, it is ‘an extremely focused provider of niche products in an expanding market’, selling science-backed, patented products that competitors struggle to replicate. [JC]
ARTEMIS RESOURCES (ARV:AIM) 4.1p
A recent addition to the AIM market, though its shares have traded in Australia for more than a decade, gold mining play Artemis Resources (ARV:AIM) is looking to follow in the footsteps of one of AIM’s recent big success stories in the resources space.
London-headquartered Greatland Gold (GGP:AIM) surged from a share price of around 1.5p in 2019 to more than 37p at its peak in late-2020 off the back of the major Havieron discovery in Western Australia. This is conservatively estimated to contain more than 4 million ounces of gold and has attracted large Aussie miner Newcrest as a partner.
While Greatland’s shares have since retraced from their highs its story still illustrates what can happen when a company makes such a significant discovery, particularly in a region with existing infrastructure and in a safe and stable mining district.
The good news for Artemis, which recently kicked off its own exploration effort for 2022, is that it is operating in very close proximity to Havieron with its 100%-owned Paterson gold-copper project.
There are substantial risks and uncertainty with resource exploration, however the fact there is already a very substantial gold resource next door is encouraging.
Artemis executive director Alastair Clayton told Shares: ‘Through good luck and good management Artemis has the ground surrounding Havieron and we believe the geology and structures which caused that discovery just a couple of kilometres away continues into our ground.’
The planned 2022 exploration activity is already funded, with the company having raised around £5 million alongside its AIM listing.
It is important to understand that plenty of companies have pegged land next to a big discovery, only to find that the mineralisation hasn’t extended into their territory. Therefore, Artemis is not guaranteed to be sitting on a literal gold mine.
As well as Paterson, the £50 million business has the Greater Carlow Castle gold, copper and cobalt deposit which, while seen as being less of a game-changer than Paterson in terms of its potential scale, is more advanced in terms of understanding the geology.
The company should get the latest drill results on Paterson in March, which will show the proportion of metals in the ores it has recovered, and this is the next likely catalyst for the share price.
Artemis is a very high-risk investment as drilling disappointment could have a material negative impact on the shares, however in the event of success the rewards could be significant. Treat this is a highly speculative investment and do not invest any money that is needed for day to day living. [TS]
MADE TECH (MTEC:AIM) 104p
Having enjoyed an initial rally after joining London’s junior market in September 2021 at 122p per share, Made Tech (MTEC:AIM) has fallen 25% from its 140p peak. That creates a decent entry point into the shares.
Set up in 2012 by chief executive and 28.2% shareholder Rory MacDonald, Made Tech provides a range of technology consulting, implementation and training services to the public sector.
With applications in the cloud, the company helps to catapult central and local government services, healthcare, housing, transport and education into the 21st Century digital age. Its customers include the Ministry of Justice, Hackney Borough Council and NHS Business Services Authority.
Based on estimates from Public.io, investment in these areas will hit £20 billion by 2025 from £3.1 billion in the 2020/21 financial year.
This same market has helped power growth at FTSE 250 group Kainos (KNOS) and the smaller TPXimpact (TPZ:AIM), and delivered huge share price gains: 645% over five years for Kainos and 211% for TPXimpact since its December 2018 stock market listing under its previous name of The Panoply Holdings.
Reflecting the scale of the opportunity, Made Tech reported 131% revenue growth in the six months to 30 November 2021 to £11.7 million. Analysts at Berenberg forecast £32 million revenue for the year to 31 May 2022, growing to £84 million by fiscal 2024, implying operating profit of £4 million this year ramping up to £13 million.
As a people business, the chief concern right now is rising staff costs. Yet experienced workers and graduate trainees are being found despite the tight recruitment market. As these pressures ease there is scope to outperform consensus earnings forecasts that already factor in rampant wage growth.
Made Tech is still a young business and embryonic in public market terms, so the shares won’t suit all investors. But a 2023 price to earnings multiple of 17 makes this a good investment opportunity for those willing to take a long-term view. [SF]
TRISTEL (TSTL:AIM) 452.3p
Tristel’s (TSTL:AIM) shares are almost back to where they were before the pandemic despite the medical device contamination prevention specialist being a significantly bigger business today compared with two years ago.
Moreover, the company believes the pandemic has permanently increased global awareness and global demand for its infection prevention and control products.
Arguably the shares got ahead of the fundamentals in the months following the outbreak of Covid-19, but the 52% fall over the past year looks overdone. We think this is a great time to buy the shares.
Tristel is a quality business with hundreds of patents protecting its technologies, unique foams, wipes and sprays used in hospitals to clean small instruments manually instead of using traditional expensive instrument washing machines.
Since listing on the market in 2005, the company has grown revenues at a compound annual growth rate of 17% a year and pre-tax profit at 15.4% year, demonstrating consistent profitable growth.
The company has been preparing to enter some of the largest markets in the last couple of years. For example, Tristel is on the cusp of making a breakthrough in the US market and expects to submit the required data to the US regulator in June.
Tristel has already appointed Parker Labs to be the contract manufacturer and marketer for Duo ULT, a high-level disinfectant for ultrasound devices. Parker is registered with the US drug regulator as a manufacturer for medical devices and looks like a great partner for Tristel to penetrate the market. Commercial sales are expected to start in the 2024 fiscal year. Approvals have already been granted for Duo ULT in India and South Korea.
It is further ahead in Canada with the first product sales expected in the current financial year which ends in June. Tristel Duo OPH was recently approved by Health Canada as a medical device used for ophthalmic (eye) instruments.
Tristel has an exciting future and has barely scratched the surface of the global market for infection prevention and control, thought to be worth around $33 billion in 2020.
Investors interested in the stock might want to wait until half year results are published on 21 February before buying to get a clear picture of events in the business. [MGam]
VAN ELLE (VANL:AIM) 41p
Geotechnical or ground engineering isn’t usually seen as a go-go business, but the UK’s largest specialist contractor is enjoying a boom in demand as construction activity rebounds from pandemic-related restrictions.
In its latest update for the six months to October 2021 Van Elle posted revenues of £60.1 million, a 57% increase on the previous year but more importantly a 24% increase on the same period in 2019 when trading was ‘normal’.
Moreover, profitability improved due to a higher plant utilisation rate which offset supply chain challenges and higher labour costs as well as mobilisation costs as the firm managed higher activity levels.
Demand from the housebuilding sector remains high with the housing division operating at near capacity. Despite the phasing out of the stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland, enquiries from big developers and contract activity levels are still high.
As pleasing, the regional construction division performed well as demand for general piling for large-scale commercial buildings took off last year on the race for space in the logistics sector, helping lift margins thanks to better plant utilisation.
The real kicker was the specialist piling and rail division which saw revenues rise 58% on 2019 levels thanks to the April acquisition of Screwfast and a big improvement in rail activity towards the end of the period, which carried on into this year.
Rail workloads have been more consistent and while the firm is not overly exposed to HS2 chief executive Mark Cutler sees Van Elle becoming more ‘embedded’ in the project due to its market-leading position.
More importantly, as the UK moves to decarbonise public transport through electrification Van Elle sees potential for significant future long term growth for its rail business.
Meanwhile, a new 10-year contract from the National Highways Agency to support the Smart Motorway Programme is a major feather in the cap of the specialist piling division.
Van Elle raised its full year guidance in January, leading analysts to upgrade this year’s earnings forecasts by between 10% and 15% but many have left their outer year estimates unchanged meaning there is scope for further increases to the consensus earnings forecast led by specialist and rail revenues. [IC]