The efficient markets hypothesis suggests that the prices of shares will always fully reflect all available information (implying, for one thing, that it’s impossible to beat the market). But for that to be true, surely we’d never see share prices move unless there’s new information, would we? But that happens every day.
Look at Oxford BioMedica (LSE: OXB). The shares spiked 8.7% this morning, on no news, though as I write the gain stands at 2.7% with the price at 4.25p.
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Oxford BioMedica operates in the field of gene therapy, so there’s plenty of potential, and I think there are good reasons to expect good things here. Although there are no profits yet, the company has been issuing a stream of positive news — the most recent of which was approval from UK regulators for its newest development facilities. And the firm’s LentiVector delivery platform sounds very promising.
With the shares having fallen 68% since their March 2015 peak, I see the biggest risk to shareholders now being future dilution. The firm burned £14.9m in operational costs last year with a further £16.7m in capital expenditure, and the £9.4m cash on the books at 31 December had to be boosted by a £7.6m share placing in February. But it’s a measured risk, and it could be profitable.
There are better understood risks at Premier Oil (LSE: PMO), whose shares are up 4.3% to 73.3p so far today, ahead of first-half results due on Thursday. The recovery in the price of oil since the start of August has helped too, as that’s a key measure of Premier’s potential ability to deal with its big debt burden — and that’s the thing that outweighs most other considerations at the moment.
Cheap oil did enable Premier to snap up E.On’s North Sea assets at a knockdown price, and as they’re productive they’re already adding to the bottom line. The month-by-month deferral of testing of the firm’s financial covenants while it’s in discussions with lenders, coupled with a recent promising Bagpuss well result, suggest to me that it’s in nobody’s interest to force Premier into default and that a debt deal will be struck.
The shares are on a price to book value ratio of around 0.7 at the moment, and that’s based on current oil prices. A sustained recovery is going to make that even more attractive, and I’m happy to keep holding Premier Oil shares.
Processor designer Imagination Technologies (LSE: IMG) shares are up 3.7% to 208p today, and are now up 90% since their 2016 low point in January. Are people hoping for a takeover approach after ARM Holdings was snapped up by Japan’s Softbank? If they are, I think they could be making a mistake, as Imagination Technologies doesn’t have the same track record of meteoric growth. In fact, after several years of declining earnings resulting in a reported loss in the year just ended, the firm is very much in a turnaround phase.
In Imagination’s full-year report last month, chief executive Andrew Heath spoke of a “particularly challenging” year, but also of a “significant restructuring of the business” which from here on “will be an IP licencing business“.
There’s definitely potential here, but on a forward P/E of 38, I think I’d hold fire for now.