Is this Neil Woodford stock on the cusp of a stunning turnaround?

Royston Wild considers the earnings potential of one Neil Woodford-championed share.

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Investment guru Neil Woodford’s admiration for Allied Minds (LSE: ALM) has remained undimmed despite the huge disruption currently washing over the Boston-based business.

The tech start-up specialist found itself on the defensive again in Thursday business after its half-year financials failed to stoke investor appetite. It was 2% lower on the day and remains a big casualty in 2017 — Allied Minds has shed exactly two-thirds of its value in the year to date.

On the plus side it saw revenues rising to $2m during January-June, up from $1.3m a year earlier. But this could not prevent losses widening during the period.

The intellectual property play chalked up a loss of $58.2m, worsening from the $52.2m loss in the corresponding 2016 period. And a whopping $44.6m loss was attributable to Allied Minds itself rather than its portfolio companies.

The business saw selling, general and administrative expenses jump by $5.4m in the first half, to $31.2m, while net cash and investments dropped to $177m from $226.1m a year earlier.

It ploughed $22.4m into its portfolio companies in the six months to June, it said.

Plenty of questions to be answered

Sour investor appetite for Allied Minds worsened in April after it announced a huge restructuring plan to jump-start its flagging fortunes, measures that have prompted it to withdraw funding at seven of its subsidiaries. The shake-up would also see the business likely endure an eye-watering $146.6m writedown, it advised.

Back then the company commented that “capital and management resources unlocked from this process will be diverted to other companies and opportunities in the portfolio where there is greatest potential for value creation.”

Allied Minds said that the move would divert more attention to its “more advanced subsidiaries and most promising early stage companies, and on scaling our origination platform to take full advantage of opportunities across our network of research institutions and corporate partnerships.”

These measures will take some time to bed in, naturally. But in the meantime, City brokers expect the company to endure further losses — losses of 38.9 US cents per share in 2017, and predicted to worsen to 42 cents in the following year.

Allied Minds has a poor track record of generating returns from its investments, and I remain unconvinced that its spring shake-up will put the company on the right path. And with the departure of long-time chief executive Chris Silva adding further uncertainty to the picture, I reckon risk-averse investors should shop around.

Get on the right page

I reckon those seeking reliable earnings growth should look past the Woodford favourite and lock gazes with Pagegroup (LSE: PAGE) instead.

The Addlestone business saw revenues detonate 16.9% during January-June, to £673.1m, or 7.7% on a constant currencies basis. And this propelled pre-tax profit 21.4% higher to £56.9m. While the company said that “challenging market conditions continued in some of our larger markets, including Brazil, Singapore and the UK,” strength elsewhere kept the top line chugging northwards.

The number crunchers share my bullish viewpoint, and predict bottom-line rises of 13% and 7% in 2017 and 2018 alone.

Sure, these projections leave the Pagegroup dealing on a forward P/E ratio of 18.9 times, peeking above the broadly-considered value watermark of 15 times. But I reckon the great growth potential afforded by its pan-global presence makes the company worthy of this slight premium.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Royston Wild 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.

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