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Can these top performing small-cap stocks continue to soar?

Image: Hostelworld: Fair use

Fancy a break from thinking/talking/worrying about the post-election fallout and how this country is seemingly more politically unstable than ever? Good — me too.

As an antidote, it’s worth remembering that the hat-trick of shocks we’ve had over the last year hasn’t stopped the shares of some companies from doing very well indeed. Here are just two of the best performing small-caps on the main market over the last 12 months.

Back on form

Shares in specialist behavioural education and care services provider Cambian (LSE: CMBN) are on something of a roll. Having climbed just over 150% in the last year, the £313m cap business is the best performing market minnow over the last 12 months. That’s right – the best

Back in April, it was announced that revenue over 2016 had climbed 13% on the previous year to £182m due to increased occupancy at its specialist schools and residential care homes. Following the recent sale of its adult services division for £379m, the company also reflected on the “significant opportunities for margin improvement and growth” that come from its decision to focus solely on the fragmented market in children’s services. Having now secured a £30m medium-term revolving credit facility and boasting a solid balance sheet, it seems only a matter of time before management keeps its word and announces a series of bolt-on acquisitions designed to further cement its market-leading status.

Another positive worth noting is Cambian’s intention to resume paying dividends to shareholders in this financial year — the actual amount for the interim payout being dependent on how the business performs over the period.

Despite all this, I’m inclined to say that a valuation of 25 times earnings for 2017 (reducing to 22 times next year) suggests a lot of good news now appears to be priced-in. As such, it may be worth prospective investors waiting for a (perhaps inevitable) dip before adding the company to their portfolios.

Woodford-backed beauty

Online booking platform (and Neil Woodford-favourite) Hostelworld (LSE: HSW) is another company whose shares have performed particularly well over the last year, having climbed 140% to sit at 366p each. While not the deal they once were, I can see this stock continuing to hit the radars of an increasing number of investors as we advance through the second half of 2017.

In his AGM statement at the start of this month, Chairman Richard Segal revealed that the “improved trading momentum” seen towards the end of 2016 had continued with Total Group bookings in the year to date were being ahead of those over the same period in the previous year. Importantly, this was seen in all regions, even if the demand for European destinations wasn’t quite as strong as elsewhere.

Sensibly however, Hostelworld’s board isn’t getting carried away. While remaining confident that expectations for the full year will be met, a lot will still depend on how the cash-generative company fares during the key summer holiday period. Given the many factors and events that can impact on sentiment towards the travel industry, success can never be taken for granted.

Like Cambian, shares in Hostelworld aren’t cheap, trading on a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of 22 for 2017, assuming a 186% increase in earnings per share. As such, this is another stock that I’d refrain from buying at the current time.

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Paul Summers has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.