Good morning from Paul amp; Graham.
A couple of long-running problems (MADE and MEAL) look to be reaching the end game, so I typed up some thoughts last night (Paul). Happy to discuss, so please do add your thoughts in the comments.
Made.Com (LON:MADE) – a bombshell announcement last night, saying that takeover talks have been terminated, as none of the parties could commit to the required timetable (end of October) for firm offers. Says it might suspend the shares. Unfortunately for holders, this looks as if insolvency is imminent.
Parsley Box (LON:MEAL) – another bombshell yesterday, with an announcement saying that it is considering de-listing the shares. Still has cash in the bank, but needs more. I’ll be glad to see the back of this share, so we can focus on more interesting investment ideas with a better chance of success.
Bloomsbury Publishing (LON:BMY) (£341m) – interim results are out for this publisher, famous for its Harry Potter connection. It is a much broader business than just HP books however: it also has significant revenues from a wide range of other consumer books, and a growing academic and professional division. I review the financials here and find little to shake my belief that this is a high-quality business with few faults. It remains confident of achieving its full-year expectations.
0.7p (down 90% yesterday afternoon)
Market cap £3m
Key points -
- Interested parties asked to make firm offers by end October (next week)
- All parties have said they are not able to meet this deadline.
- Hence discussions have been terminated.
- MADE is no longer in possession of funding proposals, or possible offers.
- FSP is still technically ongoing, but in reality I think it’s effectively over now.
- Board is considering the position.
- Will preserve value for creditors (not shareholders!) if it can’t raise further funding, or receive a firm offer before existing cash runs out (no figures or timing is given for this).
- Suspension of listing – might be appropriate.
My opinion – as regulars here will know, I’ve been emphatically ringing the alarm bells about insolvency here for a few months. I get no pleasure at all from seeing people lose money, so am not going to crow about this imminent failure. See our archive here for the warning signs.
Remember this only floated in June 2021, and now looks almost certain to go bust imminently. A total, unmitigated, disaster.
Is it worth a gamble at sub-1p? I would say no, but if it’s like betting on the Grand National for 100:1 for fun money, then that’s up to you. It’s usually not a good idea to throw good money after bad.
As mentioned before, someone is likely to buy it out of administration, so I expect the brand name (and concept) to continue in some form, but with existing shareholders wiped out. A sorry tale.
Parsley Box (LON:MEAL)
4.0p (down 58% yesterday)
Market cap £3m
This has been an absolute crock since day 1 – another disastrous 2021 IPO, that we’ve regularly torn to shreds here at the SCVRs, with good reason. Terrible product (I mystery shopped it several times), terrible management, and awful numbers, and horrific cash burn.
I mystery shopped it again here, very disappointing, awful product. Basic principle of retailing – if you appal and disgust your customers with terrible product, you won’t have many future customers!
Key points from the latest update -
2022 trading “remains in line with market guidance” (i.e. heavy losses amp; cash burn)
Cash reserves down to £3.5m
Assessing sources of capital – so it needs more cash, and it sounds like the stock market isn’t interested in pouring more cash down the plughole.
Considering whether to de-list from the stock market.
Mentions the “wider stakeholders” – which is one of the biggest red flags you can get, as this word often indicates existing equity is likely to be worth little to nothing.
My opinion - we’ve made it abundantly clear here at the SCVR previously that MEAL is not likely to succeed, based on the poor figures and high cash burn. To be fair, Directors did stump up a lot of the last fundraise in March 2022 from their own personal funds.
Surely even they must now be realising that the game’s up, hence why they’re thinking about de-listing?
I know it’s easy to be disparaging about companies that are failing, but at least they tried. We wouldn’t get anywhere as a society, if we didn’t have entrepreneurs, prepared to be bold, and try out new ideas, and investors to back them. In the case of MEAL, I think they executed badly, very badly. Bottom line for me, the products were generally awful, just terrible. Meat dishes only had tiny specks of meat, they were more like soup, not casseroles.
The top 9 shareholders at MEAL control almost ¾ of the company, so it looks likely to me they’ll probably just take it private, which would mean saving a lot of costs (listing fees, advisers, unnecessary NEDs, PRs, etc).
The interesting thing here, is that in the last fundraise, the Directors were actually quite kind to minority shareholders, and paid a generous price for their new shares (20p). Whereas more hard-nosed types could have screwed private investors. So with only about a quarter of the shares in public hands, worth under £1m, there’s a possibility that the Directors might take it private for around the current share price. Or, investors could just accept the de-listing (if it happens), and continue to hold the shares in a private company, if possible.
Personally, I just like to draw a line under failed investments like this, and move on. Why waste time monitoring some lousy public business, that then becomes a lousy private business?
Bad luck to holders, but it hasn’t worked out, and is never likely to work out. Walk away, and find something better to engage your energy, is my view. Holding on to bad investments (or worse, averaging down and hoping for a miracle) just saps your life force, as we’ve all experienced no doubt.
Graham’s Section:Bloomsbury Publishing (LON:BMY)
Share price: 418.65p (+2.5%)
Market cap: £341m
This is an independent book publisher – see its investor relations website here. Paul analysed its most recent full-year results in June. Today we have interim results for the H1 period ending August 2022.
Shareholders will be pleased to hear that Bloomsbury is confident of achieving the Board’s expectations for the year.
The main numbers:
- Revenues +22% to £122.9m, helped by three acquisitions.
- Organic revenue growth 12%
- Adjusted PBT +23% to £15.9m
- Reported PBT +17% to £12.9m
The CEO describes them as “very strong results”:
These are our highest ever first half sales and profits. These results demonstrate the strength and resilience of our strategy of publishing for both the consumer and academic markets, our growth of digital revenues and our global diversification.
The business is split into “Consumer” and “Non-Consumer” divisions.
The “Non-Consumer” division serves the academic and professional markets. It has “higher, more predictable margins and greater digital and global opportunities”, and includes Bloomsbury Digital Resources, (“BDR”) an online service for libraries and researchers
Both divisions saw excellent growth in H1, with the help of acquisitions, but the growth in the Non-Consumer division stands out to me. Within this division, the Digital Resources unit saw revenue growth of 69% to £13.6m. Profit more than doubled to £6.6m.
This unit is targeting 50% organic revenue growth at a 30% profit margin over the next five years.
Strategy – I like this section. Bloomsbury sets out its overall goals and its goals for each unit, and whether or not it achieved them in H1.
The goals in the Non-Consumer division are straightforward enough: it wants growth, and has a stretching growth target for BDR.
In Consumer, it has some non-financial goals:
- “Discover, nurture, champion and retain high quality authors and illustrators, while looking at new ways to leverage existing title rights.”
- “Grow our key authors through effective publishing across all formats alongside strategic sales and marketing.”
- “As the originating publisher of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, to ensure that new children discover and read it for pleasure every year.”
It says that all of these goals were achieved in H1, including 35% growth in Harry Potter sales (25 years after initial launch).
Bloomsbury is also looking to “expand international revenues and reduce reliance on the UK market”. It especially wants to “take advantage of the biggest academic market in the USA”. 73% of revenues are now overseas, up from 65% last year.
There’s a lot to like here, and it’s hard to find anything to dislike.
The profit margins are very good for a start. The operating margin drops out at over 10%, and that’s if you take the very strict approach of using the unadjusted numbers.
If you allow the company to apply its adjustments, the operating margin is 13%. And the gross margin is excellent at 54%.
Exposure to the US dollar has tremendously boosted things, too, although you won’t find this on the income statement. It’s in the statement of comprehensive income:
This currency exposure has effectively doubled the company’s overall profits for the period, from £10m to £20m.
Of course you can argue that this is beyond the company’s control and could easily reverse in future periods, but it’s still a very nice boost to the company’s financial picture.
The balance sheet is excellent, with no borrowings (apart from leases), cash of £41m, and net assets of £182m.
Thinking more broadly about the business, I think the digital resource (BDR) unit looks particularly exciting. But there is growth throughout every division.
And while I’m very cautious about companies engaged in heavy Mamp;A activity, there is no denying that Bloomsbury appears to be the rare company that is able to do it successfully.
As it says today, it has completed 18 acquisitions since 2008. During that time, it has paid an attractive dividend stream and its book value per share has, overall, been increasing. ROCE and ROE are not too high but they are, I think at acceptable levels. The Stock gets a QualityRank of 96.
So I’m unable to find fault in Bloomsbury. Have I missed something? Perhaps. But I must tentatively agree with the Stockopedia computers that this is an excellent stock offering good prospects.
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