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3 Small Caps Set To Soar: Quarto Group Inc, PV Crystalox Solar PLC, Vernalis plc?

Shares in Quarto Group (LSE: QRT) have climbed more than 50% in the past 12 moths, to 252p, and by 80% since late 2014. And though there are are only three brokers making recommendations, the consensus is a pretty strong ‘buy’. So what’s it all about?

Quarto is an illustrated book publisher and distributor, with a market cap of around £50m, and it’s just released full-year results that beat expectations. With adjusted pre-tax profit up 18%, adjusted earnings per share rose 13%, and the total dividend of 9.5p per share is 6% ahead of last year and yields 3.8% — and it’s covered 3.4 times by earnings. Net debt was cut by 10% too, which is a good sign, with chief executive Marcus Leaver telling us that the firm intends to “steadily reduce net debt further“.

Forecasts suggest two years of EPS growth at 11-12% per year, which would put the shares on a P/E multiple of under seven for 2016, dropping to just six on 2017 forecasts, and would provide PEG ratios of around 0.6. That suggests good growth value to me, and on these fundamentals I’d say Quarto is looking attractive.

Solar power

Shares in PV Crystalox Solar (LSE: PVCS) perked up 4% in early trading to 9.7p, after full-year results revealed an increase in revenues from €53.3m to €64.5m. The company makes photovoltaic silicon wafers, used for capturing solar energy, and it’s been suffering from weak pricing. But chief executive Iain Dorrity told us that the price of wafers “has shown some modest recovery during recent months while the price of polysilicon, the key raw material, has fallen to historic lows“, and that wafers can now be sold at more than their cash cost of production.

The company still widened its loss for the year and is extending a strategic review of its business in what are still difficult trading times. Vernalis had net cash of €12.7m on its books at the end of December, albeit down from €24.6m a year previously and possibly close to the limit if it suffers a further loss in 2016. But analysts are expecting just about break-even. It sounds like 2016 could be a pivotal year — and if demand for solar energy is on the rise, we could be at a good (if risky) buying point.

Medical recovery

My third candidate today is pharmaceuticals firm Vernalis (LSE: VER), whose first-half results led to a 12% drop in the share price to 52p. The shares soared to 87p back in September 2015 on the back of hopes for the firm’s Tuzistra XR cold treatment, but since then shareholders have been hit with a 40% fall.

Interim results showed a revenue increase to £6.1m from £5.7m, with Tuzistra XR contributing £0.6m to that — and it represents the direction the firm is going in the “major transformation in our business” described by chief executive Ian Garland, to specialize in cough and cold treatments.

There’s no annual profit forecast yet, but predicted losses per share are tumbling and the four brokers offering an opinion have Vernalis as a ‘strong buy’. It’s another risky one, but if profitability can be achieved by 2018 then we might be on to a winner.

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.