Company results are coming through thick and fast, and a couple of nice growth prospects have caught my eye among Monday’s crop:
Ascential (LSE: ASCL) is a business-to-business media company which handles events and information services, and it only floated in February 2016. Already the share price has climbed by 47% to 304p.
Results for 2016 released Monday were impressive, with the company speaking of “another year of strong organic revenue growth and successful new product launches“. Total revenue is up 5.6% on a constant-currency organic basis (and up 12% on a reported basis).
Adjusted EBITDA came in 6.5% ahead on an organic basis, with a margin of 30.1% (up from 28.5% a year previously). And we heard of a rise in adjusted operating profit from continuing operations of a whopping 36.5%, with adjusted EPS up 47.6p to 15.5p per share.
Ascential is already paying dividends, with the 4.7p recommended for the year representing a modest yield of 1.5%. But analysts are forecasting inflation-busting progressive rises that would take that up to 2.4% by 2018, and I’d say that’s pretty decent for a company at this early stage.
Part of Ascential’s planned growth is through acquisitions, with One Click Retail acquired during the year and the acquisition of MediaLink subsequently announced.
Chief executive Duncan Painter says he is “confident of another good year of growth for the group“. And though they always say that, I think the signs are looking good for Ascential — further EPS growth pencilled in for 2017 would put the shares on a P/E of 17 (dropping to 15 by 2018) and a PEG of 0.8.
There’s certainly risk involved in the early stages of a stock like this, but it looks attractive to me.
Rising pharma star
My second pick is the kind of ‘jam tomorrow’ growth share that would have excited my younger self, and it’s Verona Pharma (LSE: VRP). Verona is developing therapeutics for the treatment of respiratory diseases, and it it’s not profitable yet — though forecasts suggest a first profit in 2018.
Monday’s 2016 results sounded positive in terms of clinical progress, with a phase 2a study on something called RPL554 for treating COPD producing a “highly significant and a clinically meaningful additional bronchodilation” when used in combination with the standard salbutamol or ipratropium bromide.
The stuff seems to be well tolerated, and “did not elicit any serious adverse events or adverse events of concern at any dose“. There was more medical detail, and my overall take is that RPL554 sounds very promising indeed.
The big question is how the company is going to fund itself until it becomes profitable, and that is going to dilute the interest of existing shareholders. Verona raised £44.7m through a share placing in 2016, and it has announced plans for an IPO in the USA too. The size of that offering is currently undecided, so that’s an uncertainty that new investors will need to consider.
But with operating activities having consumed a relatively modest £5.59m in cash during 2016, it looks to me as if Verona should easily have the liquidity to see it through — providing those profits do turn up soon.
The share price has been falling back in the past couple of years, and at 140p today it’s lost nearly 60% since a peak in June 2015. I reckon Verona could be a nice bargain now for those who don’t mind a bit of risk.
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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.