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4 shares the pros are buying and selling

Our regular roundup of trades by professional investors, featuring Benchmark Holdings, Conviviality, Staffline Group and Liontrust Asset Management.

by David Campbell, Selin Bucak on Jan 29, 2018 at 00:01

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£358m
No. of shares out522m
No. of shares floating418m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees881
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£140m
Profit before tax£10m
Earnings per share-1.43p
Cashflow per share3.11p
Cash per share3.60p

Benchmark Holdings

UK equity income manager Neil Woodford has upped his stake in veterinary pharma business Benchmark Holdings (BMKB), following a share price fall of 31% over the past year.

Woodford increased his stake in Benchmark by 0.12% to 22%, held across the Woodford Equity Income fund and Patient Capital investment trust. This equates to 115 million shares, which is worth £77.1 million at a share price of 67p. Over the past three months, Benchmark’s share price has risen by 83.6%.

The health and technology specialist reported a 28% increase in revenues to £140.2 million its final results for the year to the end of September 2017. Despite the improvement in the company’s fortunes, it continued to record losses of £7.1 million for the year. However, this still represents an improvement compared to the prior year, when losses were £18.3 million.

CEO Malcolm Pye described it as a year of ‘significant operational and strategic progress’ for the business.

He added: ‘The organic growth delivered in the year and the achievement of significant milestones, together with the increased activity in many of our key markets at the end of the year leaves us full of confidence going into the new financial year.’

Key stats
Market capitalisation£647m
No. of shares out183m
No. of shares floating182m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees2640
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£1,560m
Profit before tax£54m
Earnings per share10.42p
Cashflow per share20.51p
Cash per share6.04p

Conviviality

Citywire AAA-rated small cap star Dan Nickols has increased his stake in discount booze retailer Conviviality (CVRC), after its shares took a sharp leg down from a previous meteoric ascent.

Nickols upped his position in the business by 0.1% to just over 6.9%. This equates to 12.7 million, which is worth £44.9 million at a share price of 353.5p.

The shares are held in his £1.3 billion Old Mutual UK Smaller Companies fund, while a smaller position is held in his colleague Tim Service’s £536 million UK Specialist Equity hedge fund.

Conviviality trades on the high street via its Bargain Booze off licence and convenience stores, but has rapidly expanded to consolidate the supply chain. For example, it bought wholesaler Bibendum in 2016.

After climbing 168% over the three years to late 2017, the shares have more recently gone into reverse, falling almost 17% since November. This coincided with the company raising £30 million via a private share placing.

This month Investec reiterated its buy rating on a price target of 455p.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£287m
No. of shares out28m
No. of shares floating24m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees2485
Trading volume (10 day avg.)m
Turnover£958m
Profit before tax£44m
Earnings per share71.43p
Cashflow per share137.78p
Cash per share112.39p

Staffline Group

Citywire AA-rated small cap star Philip Rodrigs has pared his stake in employment agent Staffline Group (STAF).

Rodrigs reduced his position in the company by 0.2% to 4.8%. This equates to 1.3 million shares, which means the stake is worth £13.5 million at a share price of £10.36, down 28% from £14.42 in May.

The shares are predominantly held in his £908 million River & Mercantile UK Equity Smaller Companies fund, with a smaller position held in colleague Dan Hanbury’s RM UK Equity Income fund.

This month, Staffline appeared to confirm some of the Brexit-related fears that have stalked recruiters after it said revenue would miss an earlier target of £1 billion.

The company said cashflow would nonetheless climb 8% year-on-year to around £950 million.

Analyst Berenberg was undaunted by the news, lifting its guidance to “buy” with a target price of £12.50.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£291m
No. of shares out50m
No. of shares floating47m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees82
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£52m
Profit before tax£14m
Earnings per share14.75p
Cashflow per share21.49p
Cash per share40.38p

Liontrust Asset Management

Alliance Trust (ATST) has sold an 8.2% stake in Liontrust Asset Management (LIO), banking 55% in profit over the nine months the shares were held.

The global investment trust received the shares following the sale of its £2.3 billion funds unit, Alliance Trust Investments, to Liontrust in April of last year. It sold the stake at 520p per share, or a net £21 million. This equates to a 55% profit.

Alliance Trust is due to receive an additional 1 million shares in Liontrust by 16 April 2018 as part of the deal, which again will be subject to a one year lock-up.

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Look up the shares

  • Benchmark Holdings PLC (BMKB.L)
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  • Conviviality PLC (CVRC.L)
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  • Staffline Group PLC (STAF.L)
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  • Liontrust Asset Management PLC (LIO.L)
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