The Final Countdown…

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Today’s edition features:

  • Ariana Resources (AAU.L)
  • Bushveld Minerals (BMN.L)
  • DekelOil Public Limited (DKL.L)
  • Mineral & Financial Investment Limited (MAFL.L)
  • MySQUAR Limited (MYSQ.L)
  • easyJet (EZJ.L)
  • Joules Group (JOUL.L)
  • Ryanair Holdings (RYA.L)

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The Final Countdown…

“As we run, thankfully, into the final 24 hours of campaigning, the polls show a range of estimated leads for the Conservatives over Labour of between 4 percentage points (YouGov) and 11 points (ICM). The question remains, even if the Conservatives come out ahead, will it be by enough to represent a potent force in the Brexit negotiations or will they continue to be hobbled by challenges from other parties in the Commons. Sterling held close to the $1.29 level while the FTSE 100 Index, similarly, kept in a narrow range just below the 7525 level. The latest poll result, released overnight by Opinium, points to a 50-seat majority for the Conservatives. As we have said before, after all the hoo-ha, both the pols and the bookies’ odds could be providing a false picture.

As Qatar attempts to counter the transportation restrictions being imposed by Saudi Arabia, it appears to be turning to its Shiite neighbour, Iran, for practical assistance. This may only serve to sharpen the traditional Sunni-Shiite religious divisions in the region, dominated by Sunni Saudi Arabia. The timing is particularly unfortunate in that Qatar is seen as supporting Saudi Arabia’s attempts to boost the crude oil price through OPEC and non-OPEC country production cuts. During the day, the price of Brent crude eased to just below $50/bbl. Meanwhile, tensions assisted the gold price towards the next key level of $3,000 pto at $1,295 pto before it slipped back to $1,292 pto this morning.

Many eyes will be focussed on Thursday’s testimony to Congress by President Trump’s former FBI head, James Comey, after his unceremonious sacking five weeks ago. The enquiry has been called to examine Mr Comey’s claim of pressure from the President to drop his investigation of White House links to the Russians during the Presidential Election. In particular, they are expected to examine the Russian connections of the President’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. In echoes of former President Richard Nixon and the Watergate ‘tapes’ affair which led to his eventual impeachment, there is also much speculation as to whether or not conversations at the White House between the President and Mr Comey were recorded.”
– Mike Franklin, Chief Investment Strategist



Markets

Europe
The FTSE-100 finished yesterday’s session 0.01% lower at 7,524.95 whilst the FTSE AIM All-Share index was down 1.25% at 975.35. In continental Europe, the CAC-40 finished down 0.73% at 5,269.22 whilst the DAX finished 1.04% lower at 12,690.12.

Wall Street
In New York last night, the Dow Jones fell 0.23% to 21,136.23, the S&P 500 fell 0.28% to 2,429.33 and the Nasdaq slipped 0.33% to 6,275.06.

Asia
In Asian markets this morning, the Nikkei 225 had fallen 0.06% to 19,968.48, while the Hang Seng had eased 0.03% to 25,988.32.

Oil
In early trade today, WTI crude was down 0.1% to $48.14/bbl and Brent was down 0.1% to $50.07/bbl.


Headlines

Uber fires 20 staff after harassment investigation
Uber has fired more than 20 people, and is taking other actions against staff, after a harassment investigation. The taxi-app firm said the sackings related to sexual harassment, bullying and issues about poor company culture. Uber has been under fire over its treatment of women staff since a former employee wrote a scathing blog post about her experience. It led to two investigations and the uncovering of 215 complaints about harassment and other allegations. Uber has struggled with a series of controversies in recent months, including a backlash over aggressive corporate tactics and a lawsuit from Google-owner Alphabet over allegedly stolen technology for self-driving cars. Several high-placed executives resigned amid the turbulence, including a former head of engineering, who had failed to disclose harassment complaints at his former employer. Chief executive Travis Kalanick’s filmed argument with an Uber driver over falling rates also fuelled criticism, leading him to say that he needed “leadership help”. Susan Fowler, who wrote the critical blog post about Uber, said the company had ignored her complaints of sexual harassment. Widely shared, the blog prompted Mr Kalanick to launch the investigations.

Source: BBC News



Company news

Ariana Resources (AAU.L, 1.72p) – Speculative Buy
Ariana Resources, the gold-silver exploration and development company, announced yesterday that solid progress is being made at the Kiziltepe gold mine in Western Turkey. Kiziltepe continues to ramp up towards full production through the JV agreement (50:50) with Proccea Construction. The processing plant is now operating at design capacity. As such, Ariana is now considering operational enhancements to increase mill throughput targeting over 180,000t per annum. The Company also notes that gold and silver recoveries are currently trending higher than expectations from the feasibility study and that the ore grade in the mill has increased during ramp up with further increases expected during H2 2017.

Our view: We are encouraged with the progress being made at the Kiziltepe mine during the ramp up stage. We note that dore bars are being poured approximately weekly with c 1000oz of Au and 7,000oz of Ag having been sold to the refinery to date. We look forward to further operational updates once the ramp up stage concludes in June. In the meantime, we maintain a Speculative Buy rating on the stock.

Beaufort Securities acts as corporate broker to Ariana Resources plc

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Bushveld Minerals (BMN.L, 9.08p) – Speculative Buy
Bushveld Minerals, the diversified mineral development company with a portfolio of vanadium, titanium, iron ore, tin and coal in southern Africa, announced yesterday that it restructured its US$11m Bridge Loan facility with Barak Fund SPC Ltd. The funds were used to help secure Evraz Group’s 78.8% interest in Strategic Minerals Corporation (SMC). The bridge loan was originally payable within two months of being drawn down. However, Bushveld has secured an extension such that 80% of the loan or US$8.8m was due before the end of May 2017 with the remaining due by the end of June 2017. In addition, Bushveld has made a US$1.2m payment on 2 June bringing the total repayment to US$10m. As such, the remaining balance of US$1m, plus fees and interest, is due by 30 June 2017. The Company remains confident that the final payments can be made through existing cash flows without recourse to equity capital raises. Post end of June, Bushveld will only have the US$3m Wogen facility which the Company expects to repay over a 15-month period prior to the end of 2018 through existing cash flows.

Our view: The above announcement is good news for Bushveld shareholders as the restructuring should allow the Company to settle the bridge loan facility without the need to raise additional funds through equity placements. We are encouraged with the progress being made since settlement of the Vametco transaction and look forward to further updates on operations as the Company continues with its strategy of building an integrated vanadium platform. The Company can now focus on optimising operations at the mine as well as monetising the inventory of its Nitrovan product. In the meantime, we maintain a Speculative Buy rating on the stock.

Beaufort Securities acts as corporate broker to Bushveld Minerals plc

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DekelOil Public Limited (DKL.L, 13.25p) – Buy
DekelOil, the owner and operator of the vertically integrated Ayenouan palm oil project in Côte d’Ivoire, yesterday announced its results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2016 (‘FY2016’). During the period, revenue advanced by +13.7% to €26.6m, against the comparative period (FY2015), largely driven by the introduction of sales of Palm Kernel Oil (‘PKO’) from the kernel crushing plant (‘KCP’). The sales of PKO also improved the gross margin to 24.8%, up +7.4%, leading to EBITDA growth of +10.8% to €4.1m and over ten-fold increase in profit after tax to €1.3m (FY2015: €0.1m). Lower than expected growth was caused by -4.8% decrease in average Crude Palm Oil (‘CPO’) prices during 2016 due to Nigerian currency crisis, together with weaker fresh fruit bunches (‘FFB’) production particularly in Q4. Having said this, the Group achieved record CPO production of 39,498 tonnes, up +10.4%, during the period. Net debt at the period-end stood at €15.9m (end-FY2015: €16.6m), while cash and cash equivalent increased to €2.0m (end-FY2015: €0.4m). On the operational front, the Group refinanced two of its debt on much improved terms and converted all of its outstanding capital notes (January 2017) which led to -25% reduction in full year financing costs to €2.1m from €2.8m. The Group has increased its interest in the Ayenouan palm oil project from 51% to 100% in phases where it reached 100% post the period in January 2017. DekelOil’s Executive Director, Lincoln Moore, commented “…we now have an excellent platform in place from which to expand our operations both at Ayenouan and elsewhere, including Guitry – our second project in the Ivory Coast. Having proven our business model and our management’s ability to execute transactions on attractive terms, we are focused on scaling up our activities and transforming DekelOil into the leading West African palm oil producer we believe it can become”.

Our view: DekelOil delivered strong results for the FY2016 with record production and over ten-fold increase in post-tax profit, despite the fall in average CPO prices and FFB yield. Looking ahead, in FY2017, the Group said market prices for both CPO and PKO has improved in the H1, therefore is on track to deliver further increases in sales. This year will also expect materially lower financing costs as the Group will see the first full year benefit of the revised debt term. Altogether, this enables the Group to commence maiden dividend in FY2017 which the management said it expect to pay a total of £500,000, implying c.0.17p per share. For the medium-term, as the company-owned estates reaching maturity, as well as improvement in farming practices of the smallholders supported by the World Bank scheme, these are expected to result in increased volumes of feedstock. Together with this, the Group’s investment in improved extraction rate and increased CPO storage capacity (to 8,000 tonnes) will further support the future sales growth. DekelOil has also invested in back-up facilities during the year which is now in place to minimise the operational risk. Beaufort believe DekelOil’s current share price yet to truly appreciate the potential upsides from ramp up of its CPO production from now wholly-owned Ayenouan, where c.30% of the operational capacity at the CPO extraction mill is yet utilised (maximum capacity 70,000 tonnes per annum). Moreover, the management confirmed on 10 May 2017 that it is currently in discussion with Norpalm Ghana Limited (subsidiary of Norpalm AS) and certain Norpalm AS shareholders in relation to the potential acquisition of all or the majority of the shares in Norpalm by DekelOil to build out its operations in neighbouring Ghana. Norpalm is an owner and operator of c.4,000 hectares of mature palm plantations and operates a 30 tn/hr mill which also purchases FFB from local producers. Norpalm sells 15,000 tonnes of crude palm oil sold into the domestic Ghanaian market, and also operates a PKO press which produces c.2,000 tn of PKO in the Ghanaian market. Such discussions are still ongoing and therefore there can be no guarantee that it will proceed. The Board intend, however, that it would be financed through a combination of DekelOil’s existing cash resources, new equity partners at project level and debt financing. The potential acquisition, if it were to proceed, would not constitute a Reverse Takeover, and so publication of a prospectus is not required. The Group will make further announcements in due course. Overall, given the Group has strengthened balance sheet and revenue profile while set to transform itself into a list of dividend paying company with a progressive policy in place, upsides for the shareholders are increasing on this obviously undervalued investment. The Shares are currently valued at FY2017E and FY2018E P/E multiple of 6.8x and 5.0x, along with dividend yield of 1.3% for both, respectively. Beaufort retains its Buy rating on the Shares with target price of 23p.

Beaufort Securities acts as corporate broker to DekelOil Public Limited

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Mineral & Financial Investment Limited (MAFL.L, 14.38p) – Speculative Buy
Mineral & Financial Investment (MAFL), the metals and mining focused investment company, announced today that TH Crestgate, a private investment company in which MAFL holds a 49% interest, has increased its stake in the Lagoa Salgada project in Portugal to 100%. The project is owned and operated by TH Crestgate which increased its stake through the purchase of Empresa Desenvolvimento Mineiro’s (EDM) 15% interest. The 13,400ha Lagoa Salgada project is a polymetallic deposit with a preliminary resource for the LS-1 Zone of 4.5Mt grading 2.79% Pb, 2.85% Zn, 0.34% Cu, 53.43g/t Ag and 0.81g/t Au. The LS-1 Zone is one of 17 gravimetric anomalies on the property which have yet to be fully tested.

Our view: Now with 100% ownership of Lagoa Salada, TH Crestgate will have greater flexibility in management of the project as well as significantly increasing its attributable in-situ metal resources. We continue to be encouraged by the drill results being delivered by TH Crestgate which suggests that Lagoa Salada is a large mineralised system with potentially numerous ore zones. We look forward to additional assay results from the recent round of drilling. In the meantime, we maintain a Speculative Buy on the Stock.

Beaufort Securities acts as corporate broker to Mineral & Financial Investment Limited

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MySQUAR Limited (MYSQ.L, 3.95p) – Speculative Buy
MySQUAR, the Myanmar-language social media, entertainment and payments platform whose principal activity is to design, develop and commercialise Myanmar-focused internet-based mobile applications, yesterday provided its revenue update for June. The Group said it is witnessing continued steady increase in revenue, where average daily revenue reached US$7,000 in early June 2017, an increase of +40% compared to an average of US$5,000 during the first week of May 2017 (c.US$5,500 on average in May). The majority of current daily revenue continues to be driven by gaming and mobile payment application development services. MySQUAR’s CEO, Eric Schaer, commented “With continued positive revenue progress we remain confident that the business will be operating on a run rate break even basis by or around the end of this month as targeted”.

Our view: The Group continue to build its momentum, realising through revenue growth supported by its attractive product offerings and large loyal customer base. June’s daily revenue growth validates MySQUAR’s business model and it anticipates further healthy revenue growth coming from existing multiple revenue streams as products gain in popularity, familiarity and dependence in conjunction with the release of new products and features that are currently in the pipeline. The Group expect to achieve higher revenue in the near months through recently released additional premium content in MyChat such as dating and the upgraded version of its VoIP service, CallHome, which offering a pay as you go feature with a digital wallet and the ability to call over 190 countries. At the end of last month, MySQUAR also released its latest ‘hardcore’ game called My Hero – Bo Lattae and is expected to add Blackjack into the Lucky Wingabar ‘casual’ gaming platform early this month. Indeed, following the same trajectory as its peers in more developed territories, MySQUAR’s position as the go-to local-language site for such online products and services, suggests revenue-take now has potential to commence a dramatic, almost unstoppable expansion as the young and large Burmese population becomes increasingly dependent on mobile communications and banking/credit card facilities proliferate amid the country’s quite dramatic economic expansion. MySQUAR raised £2.0m (gross) in April to plug its near-term funding gap, while also terminated the Sandabel Capital L.P.’s Convertible Loan Note facility. This should enable the Group to finance its future expansion from cash flows and outstanding accounts receivable. Thereafter there should be available headroom on the credit facility provided by Rising Dragon Singapore Pte. Ltd for all reasonable needs. Beaufort considers current activity within MySQUAR, which has been boosted by the recent Telenor agreement (to integrate Telenor Myanmar’s billing services), with similar arrangements also potentially being signed with MPT and Ooredoo in coming months, will shortly carry this low-cost operation to profits on a monthly basis. Recent positive news flows have already kicked off a significant re-rating of MySQUAR equity although Beaufort considers it still has a long way to go, notwithstanding which a predatory approach offering something like its target price of 21p/share could potentially be forthcoming. Beaufort retains its Speculative Buy rating on MySQUAR.

Beaufort Securities acts as corporate broker to MySQUAR Limited

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easyJet (EZJ.L, 1,339.00p) – Buy
easyJet, a low-cost European short-haul airline company, yesterday provided a traffic update for May 2017. During the month, passenger traffic increased by +9.5% year-on-year to 7.5 million customers, while the load remained flat year-on-year at 91.5%. The rolling 12 months traffic to May rose +8.2% to 77.3 million customers. Passenger traffic represents the number of earned seats flown, while load factor represents the number of passengers as a proportion of the number of seats available for passengers.

Our view: easyJet reported good passenger traffic and load factor data for May. The result follows April’s strong +11.7% growth in passenger traffic and +2.5% improvement in load factor, which was boosted by the timing of Easter this year. Last month, easyJet reported results for the H1 FY2017, which were broadly in line with its guidance. Looking ahead, subject to normal levels of disruption, the Group said its H2 capacity growth is expected around +8.4% that seen in H1, and revenue per seat in Q3 is expected to fall by “low single digits”. The guidance for a headline cost per seat excluding fuel at constant currency for the full year is maintained at +1% increase. For the medium-term, the Group noted it remains committed to flat cost per seat excluding fuel at constant currency in FY2019 against FY2015 (FY2015: £37.44). easyJet said unit fuel cost for the H2 is likely to reduce, leading to a full year reduction in the range of £225m to £235m is expected, while adverse exchange rate movements are estimated to impact full year pre-tax profit by around £100m. At the time of H1, the Group indicated that its forward bookings for Q3 and FY2017 are encouraging at 77% and 55%, respectively (H1 FY2016: 72%, FY2016: 50%), and the management confirmed that it is on course to achieve full year pre-tax profit in line with consensus market expectations of £370m. The Shares are valued at FY2017E and FY2018E P/E multiple of 17.3x and 14.2x, with dividend yields of 2.8% and 3.5%, respectively. The Group has strong balance sheet with a net cash position of £353m at 31 March 2017 to support growth. Beaufort retains its Buy rating on the shares, while keeping one careful eye on the oil price and economic/political uncertainties.

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Joules Group (JOUL.L, 301.00p) – Buy
Joules Group plc, a British premium lifestyle brand, yesterday announced its pre-close trading update for the 52 weeks ended 28 May 2017 (‘FY2017’). During the period, revenue advanced by +19.6% to £157.0m (+18.6% on a constant currency basis, ‘CC’), comprised of; c.+19.4% increase in Retail revenue (CC: +19.4%) and c.+20.3% rise in Wholesale (CC: +17.6%). The Group said strong performance seen in the H1 and the Christmas trading period has continued during the H2, reflection the brand’s expansion in the UK and international markets, Joules’ growing customer base, and the positive customer responses to both new and core ranges across product categories throughout the year. The Retail segment saw strong e-Commerce growth, while the Group’s store estate, with an addition of 11 net new stores during the period, also continued to grow. The Wholesale segment was driven by strong growth in the Spring/Summer order-book. Joules’ CEO, Colin Porter, commented “As a result of the brand’s momentum across channels and product categories, the Board anticipates reporting profits for the full year comfortably ahead of its previous expectations”. The Group is scheduled to announce its Preliminary Results on 26 July 2017.

Our view: Joules’ trading update was highly reassuring, where it confirmed that the brand’s momentum across channels and product categories continued throughout the year. The Group is also expected to report an improvement in gross margin year-on-year, as it sold higher proportion of full price products, together with further distribution efficiencies and a favorable product mix within international wholesale. Altogether, the Group confirmed that revenue growth, margin improvement and continued cost discipline will result in FY2017 pre-tax profit ahead of the Board’s previous expectations. Although the weaker Sterling-driven cost inflation, increasing wage pressures, potential general inflation and any subsequent reduction in disposable income/consumer confidence will impact the entire UK retail sector, the Group has already mitigated some of these concerns by hedging its expected US Dollar requirement up to FY2018 (the majority of Joules’ product purchases are US Dollar denominated). Given growth in its customer base, strong pipeline of new store opening, as well as “robust” Autumn/Winter wholesale order-book both in the UK and internationally, the Board said it has the confidence in FY2018, despite the uncertain macro-economic outlook. We believe Joules’ strong brand footprint and expanding loyal and active customer base will continue to drive its momentum forward. Following the consensus upgrades, the Shares are currently valued at FY2017E and FY2018E P/E multiple of 33.7x and 30.0x, along with dividend yield of 0.6% and 0.7%, respectively. In view of the positive progress with confident outlook, Beaufort reiterates its Buy rating on the Shares.

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Ryanair Holdings (RYA.L, EUR18.11) – Buy
Ryanair, a low-cost European short-haul airline company, yesterday provided a traffic update for May 2017. During the month, passenger traffic increased by +11% y-o-y to 11.8 million customers, while the load factor grew +1% y-o-y to 95%. The rolling annual traffic to May rose +13% to 122.5 million customers. Passenger traffic represents the number of earned seats flown, while load factor represents the number of passengers as a proportion of the number of seats available for passengers.

Our view: Ryanair reported strong passenger traffic and load factor data for May. These strong statistics follow last month’s +13% increase in passenger traffic and +3% growth in load factor to 96%. Ryanair said the good result was driven by lower fares and the continuing success of its ‘Always Getting Better’ (‘AGB’) customer experience programme. The Group is currently in Year 4 of AGB, which will work on ‘connecting flights’, initially on Ryanair flights, followed by 3rd party connections in late 2017. As part of this, Ryanair also started selling of long-haul flights from Madrid to North and South America partnering with Air Europa. Looking ahead, in FY2018, Ryanair expect challenging pricing environment to continue with average fares anticipated to decline by -5% to -7% (H1: c.-5%, H2: c.-8%). The Group is set to tackle this by boosting passenger traffic and further reducing unit costs. Subject to normal level of disruptions, Ryanair is targeting +8% growth in passenger traffic to 130 million with a flat load factor of 94% for the full year. Fuel savings for the year is expected to be €70m, while unit costs excluding fuel is expected to decline by -1% despite the strong comparatives. Altogether, these results in profit after tax guidance in the range of €1.40bn to €1.45bn. Beaufort is encouraged by the Group’s ability offering lowest fares in the Europe while still retaining its net profit position. The key differences for Ryanair is its ability to continue reducing its ex-fuel unit costs, achieving “lowest passenger costs” amongst its EU competitors, at the time of traffic growth and when competitors are “forecasting flat or rising” costs. This gap between Ryanair and its rivals should enable Group to maintain its current momentum and continue winning market share. Beaufort retains its Buy rating on Ryanair.

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To read Beaufort’s full research archive click here

Compiled by:
Barry Gibb, Kazunaga Senga, Sheldon Modeland, Charles Long & Ben Maitland
(t) +44 (0) 207 382 8384
(e) info@beaufortsecurities.com


Weekly diary


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Recommendations
During the three months to end-May 2017, the number of stocks on which Beaufort Securities published recommendations was 196, and the recommendations were as follows: Buy – 77; Speculative Buy – 100; Hold – 17; Sell – 2.

Full definitions of the recommendations used by Beaufort Securities in its publications and their respective meanings can be found on our website here.

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