In the Company of Mavericks

Jeremy McKeown has fascinating conversations with entrepreneurs who dared to be different.

In the Company of Mavericks

Episode posted on 24/04/2024

I sit on the Investment Committee of the AIM-listed Onward Opportunities investment fund managed by Dowgate Wealth. I have a personal investment in Onward. Dowgate Group owns 9.26% of Transense Technologies PLC, of which Onward Opportunities owns 6.96%. 

Last year, Onward's fund manager, Laurence Hulse, proposed an investment in Transense Technologies. My initial reaction could best be described as having a Victor Meldrew moment. Those with stock market memories may recall that Transense has a history of failing to meet its ambitious plans and targets and repeatedly returned to investors to back its innovative sensor technology. 

In 2007, Transense had a market cap of £60m and forecast revenue of £300,000. Its exciting disruptive technology, Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW), was destined to achieve widespread adoption in the automotive industry. However, this didn't happen, and instead, Transense developed a well-earned reputation for serial stock market underachievement.   

As Sir John Templeton said, the four most dangerous words in investing are, This Time It's Different. With these words in mind, on today's episode, I am joined by Laurence to hear how Executive Chairman Nigel Rogers and Managing Director Ryan Maughan have repositioned this failed AIM-listed, blue-sky growth stock of the early 2000s. It is a fascinating case study of how UK-listed microcap companies can become forgotten and ignored as recovery strategies are implemented and latent value is created. As Nigel mentions, the AIM market is far from perfect. 

Today, Transense has a market cap of just £15m and is only now beginning to exploit SAW's true potential in areas like motorsport, EVs, aerospace and robotics. Following an innovative licensing deal with tyre giant Bridgestone that has effectively underwritten the business's foreseeable future, Transense today is led by a combination of Nigel's experienced financial nouse and Ryan's proven engineering credentials and entrepreneurial instincts.
In this episode, we learn how Transense Technologies has been right-sized and can face the future on a firm financial footing, giving it time to exploit opportunities in SAW and its tyre-measuring device business, Translogik.    

Please enjoy our conversation with Nigel and Ryan of Transense Technologies and why this time, it's different.       

Brought to you by Progressive Equity Research.     

Episode posted on 20/04/2024

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For this week's Market Call Gareth and Jeremy are joined again by Scott Evans of the London Business School and the Deutsche Numis Equity Indices. Scott talks about market performance in Q1 2024. Where have markets come from, how have they performed in Q1, and where are they going? Bond yields have risen, inflation is sticky, and rates are higher for longer. Equities have had a good quarter, albeit the Magnificent Seven have not been quite so magnificent. The UK, by comparison, has been lacklustre. Gold has been the Q1 showstopper, and the main buyer seems to have been China's central bank, the POBC. Are they about to devalue the Red Cabbage or launch a military campaign?

In Q1, small caps underperformed large caps in Q1 in UK and US. The UK IPO market remains moribund. There have been more deaths than births in the UK market YTD. Is the UK stock market just a dumpster fire, or can it recover? Gareth is hopeful for a recovery.

Jeremy highlights the Middle East conflict, its limited impact on financial markets, and what to look for going forward. The big news is UK inflation, but he remains sceptical that the UK will cut rates ahead of the Fed.

Gareth discusses the week's company news, highlighting the Severfield results with a strong order book and a share buyback.

In next week's news, Jeremy highlights US PCE inflation data and the Bank of Japan's interest rate decision.

Made possible by Progressive Equity.  

Episode posted on 07/04/2024

In today’s episode, private investor Mark Atkinson and host of The Desert Island Investor rejoins me for a conversation with MPAC CEO Adam Holland. 


Mark’s professional background was in the paper and packaging industry. He has been a shareholder in MPAC since 2013 when it was known as Molins. 


Adam has enjoyed a varied engineering career, initially working in space technology, then with Rolls Royce and for JCB before joining MPAC initially as COO in 2021. He has a track record of solving engineering problems in global industries and leading teams that provide after-sales care for large multinational customers.


Adam gives us a detailed run-through of the rich legacy of the business he now runs and its evolution into an automation systems provider to the global packaging industry. He talks about the scale of MPAC's market, the challenges, and the opportunities to grow organically with existing and new customers, and via infill acquisition. 


We learn from Adam why he prefers to reinvest in the business than to pay dividends today, how MPAC has significant potential in the giga factory market for the scale production of modern batteries, and that scaling the business and maintaining its culture of engineering excellence and customer service is vital in his vision to make MPAC into a business capable of being 10x its current sales level.  


Please enjoy our conversation with Adam Holland.
 Brought to you by Progressive

Episode posted on 08/03/2024

For today’s episode, I am joined by former fund manager and author Patrick Schotanus.  


Patrick has extensive and varied experience analysing and investing in financial markets, culminating in 15 years of co-managing a large multi-asset fund. 


Throughout his career, Patrick has questioned the relevance of mainstream economics in understanding the reality of financial markets and investment management, and over recent years he has focused all his time developing what he calls The Market Mind Hypothesis or the MMH. 


Last year, Patrick published a book on his work titled The Market Mind Hypothesis: Understanding Markets and Minds through Cognitive Economics. It is a fascinating read.


In today’s conversation, Patrick discusses how mechanistic economics leads to damaging policy errors, how mechanistic investment strategies damage price discovery, and the amazing overlapping worlds of markets and minds. In short, Patrick believes markets are conscious and we would be better off if we established this as our way of framing how we think about economics and finance.       


As Patrick says, if mainstream economics is the answer to our problems, then we are asking the wrong questions. And that the growing dominance of mechanistic and passive investment flows risk breaking markets' conscious means of price and value discovery.


Patrick’s analysis contains much practical guidance on thinking about real and financial markets, although he concedes that more research is required.  


Please enjoy my conversation with the maverick thinker, Patrick Schotanus.


Brought to you by Progressive Equity.


Episode posted on 16/02/2024

For today’s episode, I am joined by David Seaman of Alpha Cygni Asset Management for a conversation with two mavericks, an entrepreneur and an investor.


Angus Thirwell is the co-founder and CEO of Hotel Chocolat and was on Episode 4 in December 2021. Angus has just completed the sale of Hotel Chocolat to Mars for a value of £534m and has decided to roll most of his stake in the company into the Mars family structure as he sees an increased opportunity for the brand to grow under its new ownership. 


Gary Channon is the founder and CIO of Phoenix Asset Management with a disciplined value style of investing detailed in previous episodes with James Wilson. Gary heads a team that manages UK-listed investment vehicles, Aurora Investment Trust and Castelnau.  


We are treated to a master class in how Angus’s careful stewardship of his premium branded chocolate and the culture required to develop its full potential led him to his partnership with one of the world’s biggest and most successful family businesses.  


And how Gary’s disciplined approach to research and valuation delivered a stunning return by acquiring a 15% stake in Hotel Chocolat after its post-pandemic setback. 


We cover a lot of ground and discuss the health of the UK stock market, how to think about investing in consumer-facing businesses and how failing and learning from mistakes is an important part of developing a business whether in premium chocolate or asset management. 


Gary also talks about taking the funeral business Dignity private and this latest addition to the portfolio, Churchill China.      


Please enjoy our conversation with the mavericks, Angus Thirwell and Gary Channon.


Brought to you by Progressive Equity Research.

Episode posted on 27/01/2024

In today’s episode, I am joined by energy blogger and author Doomberg for a conversation about the necessity of energy in our lives, how we take it for granted and the implications for our economies and our politics.

Doomberg is a pen name and alias assuming the form of a green chicken online. Originally on Twitter and now on Substack, Doomberg has become the most popular financial newsletter on the platform.

Doomberg explains why he has chosen to operate anonymously, helping him explore and explain complex and technical aspects of the energy debate with unusual clarity often overlooked or ignored by mainstream media and policymakers.

In this fascinating discussion, Doomberg explains why energy is fundamental to human life, why our dizzying technical expertise in extracting hydrocarbons is overlooked and even denigrated by people whose very lives depend on it, what the connection is between energy and human flourishing, how our thinking has been held hostage by Malthusian beliefs of pessimism leading to energy crises, economic decline and political unrest. We also talk about the recent COP 28 gathering and the renewed pursuit of nuclear energy.

I have learnt much from Doomberg about energy, economics and how our world works. In so doing, he demonstrates the changing nature of our media and how the internet can be used as a force for an informed debate on important topics. I find his approach refreshing and inspiring.

Please enjoy my conversation with the maverick Doomberg.   

Brought to you by Progressive Equity Research.

Episode posted on 21/01/2024

Jeremy McKeown and Gareth Evans are joined by Scott Evans of the London Business School and co-compiler of the Deutsche Numis Market Indices to discuss the performance of mid and small-cap last year, over the long term, and what might be driving equity market performance in 2024. In addition, they mention updates from Concurrent Technologies and Gamma Communications from last week.   

Episode posted on 14/01/2024

Jeremy McKeown & Gareth Evans discuss the macro drivers behind this week's equity markets and some company updates that caught their attention. 

Companies mentioned this week include UK housebuilders, M&S, Marks Electrical, Sosander and Xaar. 

Episode posted on 08/01/2024

Jeremy McKeown and Gareth Evans discuss the main market trends from last year and the outlook for 2024. They discuss the October pivot on rate expectations, the rise of the Magnificent Seven AI wonder stocks, the outlook for Chinese and UK equities, and will a recovery in China be inflationary or deflationary. Will Trump win the US election, and what are the market implications? What about the UK? Can it be the best-performing market in 2024?

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Brought to you by Progressive Equity

Episode posted on 15/12/2023

Tony Brewer of Likewise Group 


Guest co-host James Wilson of Phoenix Asset Management, manager of the Huginn Fund. 


A few weeks ago, James Wilson of Phoenix Asset Management joined me for a conversation with Tony Brewer, the founder and CEO of Likewise Group.


James had talked about Tony and his investment in AIM-listed Likewise on a previous episode, and I had been keen to get Tony on ever since.  


Tony has spent his entire adult life in the floor coverings business developing Headlam from a small textile distributor to the UK’s leading flooring supplier before leaving in 2016.


Two years later, at a time when many of us might consider slowing down, Tony set up Likewise and set about building national distribution, as James points out, this is a business where scale matters.


James is an investor who leaves few stones unturned when he seeks companies to join his concentrated and eclectic portfolio. With his questioning and observations, James brings to life the investment case for what one might believe to be an overly competitive and low-value-added business.    


This episode offers a fascinating insight into a man with a passion for carpet distribution and the views of a professional investor backing him to succeed.     

Please enjoy our conversation with the maverick, Tony Brewer.


Made possible by Progressive Equity Research.



Episode posted on 12/12/2023

Tony Brewer of Likewise Group 

Guest co-host James Wilson of Phoenix Asset Management, manager of the Huginn Fund. 

Have you ever wondered why small independent carpet shops can survive competing against the major multiple retailers?

In a previous episode, James Wilson of Phoenix Asset Management talked about Tony Brewer previously of Headlam and now the founder and CEO of AIM-listed Likewise. 

Coming soon I am rejoined by James for a fascinating chat with Tony, about his life in carpets.  

This episode gives a behind-the-scenes look at the complexities of the world of floor covering distribution, one man’s life’s passion for it and how a professional investor rates his chances of delivering long-term value from a business he founded in 2018. 

Made possible by Progressive Equity Research.

Episode posted on 25/11/2023

For this episode, I am joined by Gareth Evans, the founder and CEO of Progressive Equity Research for a conversation with Nils Gornall, the CEO of DP Poland, and a veteran Domino's Pizza operator. 

Nils started as a pizza maker at the age of 15 and opened his first franchised store in Perth, Western Australia, just before his 22nd birthday. 

It is fair to say Nils has pizza in his blood and gives us a masterclass in what makes a delivered pizza shop work and how to develop a winning culture. 

From Australia to Croatia, via Canada Nils now operates AIM listed DP Poland from Warsaw. He is quite the epitome of the Aussie traveller. 

In this episode, we learn how operating a pizza shop is like running a sports team, and how wowing customers with pizza delivered in 25 minutes or less involves better in-store metrics and not high-speed moped drivers. As Nils said, “The race is in the store, not on the road.” 

As Stephen Helmsley of Franchise Brands, formerly CEO of Domino’s Pizza in the UK said in Episode 11, opening Domino’s successfully in new markets requires proven operators. Nils fits the bill perfectly. 

Please enjoy our conversation with the maverick, Nils Gornall.