October looks like being a packed month for updates from London-listed companies. This afternoon, I’m taking a look at the small-cap end of the market and three UK growth stocks in particular. Can their recent positive momentum continue?
High street and online retailer Hotel Chocolat (LSE: HOTC) should be releasing its delayed set of full-year results on 5 October. Normally, a postponement would be taken negatively by shareholders but HOTC’s share price has held up well. In fact, it’s up almost 9% over the last month.
This isn’t completely irrational. Back in July, HOTC said revenue in its last financial year hit £165m. That’s 24% higher than in FY19 — the year before Covid-19 struck. So trading’s clearly far from terrible.
On the flip side, I’m conscious that only a relatively small percentage of stock is actively traded (CEO Angus Thirlwell still owns over 25% of the company). Such a small free float does mean it’s share price is theoretically more susceptible to violent moves, both up and down.
This matters considering the valuation. A P/E of 42 looks very expensive and HOTC simply can’t afford to rest on its laurels if recent momentum is to continue. Should it disappoint in any way (perhaps in relation to rising costs), I might actually get the entry price I’ve been looking for.
Another steeply-valued small-cap UK growth stock reporting next month is contamination control product manufacturer Tristel (LSE: TSTL). It reveals full-year figures on 18 October.
Like Hotel Chocolat, Tristel is a stock I’ve long admired but never pulled the trigger on. It’s a high-quality, financially-sound company operating in a niche area. Let’s not forget that Covid-19 has cemented the need to do everything possible to reduce infection in healthcare settings. This should provide the company with a springboard for further sales growth.
However, I just can’t get away from that valuation. A P/E of 60’s eye-watering, even if Tristel has hinted that a rise in (non-pandemic-related) hospital admissions towards the end of its financial year has increased demand for its disinfectant products.
Regardless of it doing everything right from here, a more general stock market wobble could really hammer the price as investors dash to cash. That makes for an unattractive risk/reward trade-off, in my view. As a result, Tristel remains stuck on my watchlist, for now.
Of the three discussed today, TLY shares have performed the best over the last year, almost doubling in value. Based purely on valuation, Totally also looks a lot more palatable than both HOTC and TSTL. Its shares currently command a forward P/E of 22. The balance sheet looks fairly solid and there’s an experienced management team at the helm.
Naturally, there are things to be wary of. The fact that Totally is only trading around the breakeven level right now is the key drawback for me. This is also a low-margin business. And while recent demand from the NHS has clearly been good, it’s worth questioning what happens when the Covid-19 storm finally passes.
Another interesting UK growth stock then, but not one I’d feel comfortable buying before next month’s update.
Paul Summers has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Hotel Chocolat. 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.