Smoother roads ahead

The results for the year ended 29 February released today show a robust performance across a difficult year, but they also provide good grounds for optimism. Revenue of £4,720m was a 17.6% advance on FY23, helped by the successful acquisition of Helston in FY23. Underlying operating profit of £59.3m was a 21.5% improvement on the £48.8m achieved in FY23. The net debt (pre-leases) result of £(54.0)m, vs our estimate £(62.0)m and FY23 £(75.3)m, is impressive. Encouragingly the recommended dividend per share has been increased 9% to 2.35p and management has announced a further £3m of planned and approved share repurchases. The year has started well with trading ahead of management expectations for the first two months.

Smoother roads ahead

This report is intended to help UK small- and mid-cap investors gain a better understanding of software companies’ routes to market, and to highlight how one of the most important facets of the way in which they grow and deliver value is routinely ignored.  We examine sales processes for six UK-listed companies and one that has recently been taken over, and consider why they have followed their respective paths.

Tech Sector Focus – It’s not what you sell, it’s the way that you sell it

The trading update confirms revenues in line with our expectations. Excess inventory flow through and market softness in China have impacted CML’s core business, but Microwave Technologies Inc (MwT) is performing ahead of expectations. The net effect, along with MwT acquisition related costs, is that Reported PBT and EBITDA are to be lower than expectations, but not substantially so. The long-term investment case is founded upon the opportunity in next-generation wireless and, with £18m cash and MwT performing strongly, we believe the outlook remains encouraging.

Ripples not waves – still on growth course

Vertu is the fourth largest automotive retailer in the UK, with 188 sales outlets and a track record of cross-cycle growth, principally through businesses it has acquired, funded by equity, debt and most importantly cash generation. Vertu operates across the entire vehicle lifecycle, including new and used vehicle sales, and vehicle servicing, repair and parts. Service and repair is a 40+% gross margin repeating business. With economic headwinds, the transition to electric vehicles, recent overseas investment in the UK market and noise about new business models, the next few years should be interesting. Vertu is well placed to be a winner on several fronts.

Traction control

Gamma’s results for the year ended 31 December are in line with the expectations confirmed in the January trading update. Revenue of £521.7m is 8% ahead of FY22, with gross profit at £267.2m showing the same progress. Adjusted EBITDA grew by 9% and PBT by 10%, although the impact of higher tax rates was seen in the 5% increase in adjusted EPS. Cash generation was strong once again, with 108% adjusted cash conversion. Year-end cash of £134.8m is £42.3m above the year before, even after the £30.5m in acquisition spend. Perhaps the most anticipated element of today’s news is the statement regarding the £35m share buyback programme, alluded to in the January trading update. On an operational basis, Gamma is making good progress in Business, Enterprise and Europe. For those looking at ‘undervalued’ UK equities, Gamma’s growth stands out.

More happy returns

Vertu Motors plc

Idox’s results for the year to 31 October are in line with the November trading update. Revenue grew 11% to £73.3m (FY22: £66.2m), with the principal driver being growth in the LP&PP division. Adjusted EBITDA improved 9% to £24.5m with a margin of 33%, vs £22.5m and 34% for FY22, respectively. With free cashflow generation of £9.1m (FY22: £7.2m), net debt at the year-end was £14.7m (FY22: £6.7m). The outlook statement is confident, but we have revised our forecasts to reflect increased spending on technology development alongside the sales and marketing required to capture the significant potential within the Geospatial business.

FY23 delivered – preparing for the next phase

Gamma’s trading update for the year ended 31 December confirms adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EPS in line with market consensus (£113.8m-£116.0m for adj. EBITDA and 74.2-77.4p for adj. EPS). Business is performing well and making progress with the development of its product offering, while Enterprise is winning notable contracts. In Europe, Gamma has made strong financial progress. Year-end cash was £134.8m (FY22: £92.5m) with operating cash conversion over 100%. The statement refers to an update on the approach to capital allocation with the full-year results in March.

Aligned with the stars

CML’s interim results to 30 September show that, despite challenging markets, the group continues to make progress. Revenue improved by 5% to £10.6m, up from £10.1m in H1 FY23. Profit from operations was flat at £1.9m, prior to third-party acquisition related costs from the MwT transaction of £0.3m and share-based payments. Cash balances at the period-end were £20.95m (31 March: £22.26m), after significant expenditure on product development, share buybacks and the FY23 final dividend. With the MwT acquisition completed and integration underway, CML is well positioned to continue growth in its existing markets and exploit the huge potential in next-generation wireless technologies, such as 5G, the Industrial Internet of Things and mass-market satellite communications.

The unusually reliable semis co delivers, again

Oxford Metrics’ results for the year to 30 September show a business that is growing strongly, driven by long-term technology, economic and demographic trends across the life sciences, entertainment and engineering markets. The results are in line with the trading update given on 25 October (see our note) that showed revenue and adjusted PBT ahead of our, and market, expectations. With a confident management commentary on the outlook, we raise our estimates for FY24E and introduce forecasts for FY25E.

Drivers to growth and catalysts for rerating

Today’s trading update for the year ended 31 October confirms another year of robust performance, with key figures in line with expectations. Order intake and revenue are both up c.11%, at £82m and c.£73m, respectively. Adjusted EBITDA of c.£24.5m is an improvement of 9% on last year. Perhaps most encouraging is net debt at £14.7m, somewhat better than our expectation of £15.9m after the recent acquisition of Emapsite. Management has new, larger financing facilities in place, on better terms than before, and FY24 has begun well, with expectations for revenue and profit growth unchanged.

Resilience plus, as expected

Oxford Metrics (OM) today announced the acquisition of Industrial Vision Systems Ltd (IVS) for £8.1m, funded from cash and 1m new shares. IVS operates in industrial applications of smart sensing, with machine learning technology for quality control in the manufacturing environment. The deal is immediately earnings enhancing and we are raising our forecasts for FY24. This is an exciting first M&A application of the funds from the Yotta disposal. The deal appears technologically and strategically valuable, as well as earnings enhancing; we see it as a material step forward for the group.