Gaining momentum

Appreciate Group 12 January 2021 Update
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Appreciate Group

Gaining momentum

Q3 trading update

Financial services

12 January 2021

Price

33p

Market cap

£61m

Net cash (£m) at 31 December 2020

33.5

Shares in issue

186.3m

Free float

100%

Code

APPS

Primary exchange

AIM

Secondary exchange

N/A

Share price performance

%

1m

3m

12m

Abs

7.3

22.6

(47.2)

Rel (local)

2.9

8

(42.1)

52-week high/low

65p

24p

Business description

Appreciate Group is a specialised financial services business and is the UK’s leading provider of multi-retailer redemption products to the corporate and consumer markets. Consumers can access these products directly through its market-leading Christmas Savings offering. Corporate customers use these products to supply a range of incentive and reward products, often tailor made.

Next events

Year-end trading update

29 April 2021

Analyst

Martyn King

+44 (0)20 3077 5745

Appreciate Group is a research client of Edison Investment Research Limited

Sales performance continued to improve in the seasonally important Q321 period. Core billings were well ahead of the prior year and December was the strongest month ever. Management is confident H221 will see the normal swing back to profitability, with the full-year performance at least in line with its expectations that underlay the H121 reinstatement of dividends. Accelerated digitalisation of the business has mitigated the effects of the pandemic, supported the Q321 progress, and positions it well for sustainable growth beyond the current financial year.

Year end

Billings*
(£m)

Revenue
(£m)

Adj. PBT**
(£m)

EPS***
(p)

DPS
(p)

P/E
(x)

Yield
(%)

03/19

426.9

110.4

12.5

4.8

3.20

6.9

9.7

03/20

419.9

112.7

11.4

4.9

0.00

6.7

0.0

03/21e

360.9

93.5

4.2

1.9

1.20

17.1

3.6

03/22e

392.3

101.0

7.1

3.1

1.50

10.7

4.5

Note: *Billings is a non-statutory measure of sales defined as the face value of voucher sales and the net amount of value loaded on prepaid cards/digital products. **PBT is adjusted for exceptional items. ***EPS is fully diluted and adjusted for exceptional/non-recurring items.

Strong Q3 growth led by digital

Core underlying billings (excluding Christmas Savings billings, which are driven by fulfilment of the annual order book) were up 13.1% to £96.3m in Q321 (three months to 31 December 2020) compared with Q320 and December (billings of £45.5m/+41.7%) was Appreciate Group’s (APP’s) strongest month ever. Continuing momentum in digital sales drove the Q3 growth with an almost four-fold increase to £22.5m (Q320: £5.9m). The free cash position increased to £33.5m from £24.9m at H121. Although the latest lockdown measures may delay some revenue and profit recognition until customers have more opportunity to redeem their products, management expects the full-year performance to be at least in line with its mid-range scenario described in the 2020 annual report.

Well placed for further growth

APP has continued to progress its strategic business plan, aimed at building a more robust and scalable business model capable of capitalising on growth opportunities in the large and fragmented market in which the group operates. The progress made to date, enhancing operating systems and processes and putting a greater focus on digital products and services, mitigated the pandemic’s effects in H121 and is delivering growth in Q3 by positioning the group to better exploit existing industry trends and deliver sustainable growth. Business simplification has continued with the wind-down/sale of FMI, contract packing and the Irish businesses, allowing management to focus on driving the core business.

Valuation: Not yet anticipating recovery

Our forecasts and modified DCF valuation of 60p per share are unchanged. The DCF looks through the near-term suppression of earnings by the pandemic and ‘one-time’ cash flow adjustment from business mix changes away from paper vouchers to card/digital. It implies a calendar year 2021 P/E of c 21x and yield of 3.3%, reasonable in a ‘peer group’ context and in view of APP’s growth ambitions.

Additional details

Steady progress in billings since April low

Exhibit 1 shows the steady progress of core underlying billings from April 2020 when the pandemic lockdown was first introduced. Core underlying billings includes the Corporate business and Highstreetvouchers.com (HSV) but excludes Christmas Savings. Christmas savings billings are driven by Christmas order despatches, primarily in the second half of the year, from an order book built primarily in the first half of the year. Positively, the Christmas 2020 order book has ended up c 8% lower year on year compared with earlier indications of c 10%. Also not included in Exhibit 1 is c £12m of billings in respect of the free summer school meals partnership with Iceland, one-off in nature and relatively low margin. Including this, core billings were £166.0m in the nine months to end-December 2020, at a similar level to the first nine months of FY20.

Exhibit 1: Steady progress in billings since April low

Corporate and HSV billings (£m)

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

H121

Oct

Nov

Dec

Q321

9M21

FY21

5.0

7.4

8.6

11.8

10.2

14.9

57.9

24.0

26.8

45.5

96.3

154.2

FY20

14.0

13.7

13.8

14.4

12.4

13.0

81.2

26.4

26.6

32.1

85.1

166.3

YoY change

-63.9%

-46.5%

-37.5%

-17.6%

-17.7%

+14.8%

-40.2%

-9.3%

0.9

41.7

13.1%

-7.3%

Source: Appreciate Group

Corporate billings were up 12% in Q320, including a 42% y-o-y increase in December driven by clients rewarding employees, with record levels of business from new clients during the quarter. Billings via Highstreetvouchers.com were up 36% y-o-y in Q321. The strong growth in digital product was supported by the promotion of Love2shop e-codes and the launch of the Love2shop contactless digital card. Enhancements to digital marketing led to APP achieving an increased share of search demand volume in the core gift card category during November and December. Performance compared with the prior year also reflects improvements in core online systems that in FY20 forced a curtailment in order intake, including the temporary imposition of a minimum order value, as a result of volume and load issues. Further improvements are planned during FY21 through the implementation of the new enterprise resource planning system that will provide a more robust and scalable system to support future growth.

No change to forecasts

We have made no changes to our forecasts set out in detail in our December update note. The progress in Q321 suggests that FY21 billings may exceed our forecast but this may be offset in terms of revenues by the further pandemic restrictions, which are likely to slow the redemption of products by customers; slower redemption of multi-retailer redemption products delays the recognition of revenues and earnings, although only deferring this to future periods.

The increased free cash position at 31 December 2020 of £33.5m is above the level that we forecast for end-FY21 (£21.8m) and will have benefitted from the billing of unregulated voucher product in the run-up to Christmas. The despatched vouchers will act as a drag on free cash as they are redeemed. As explained in our December update note and in more detail in our September outlook note, we expect the growth of higher margin but less immediately cash generative regulated card/digital product (versus paper vouchers) to act as a temporary drag on reported cash flows during the next two years, but this one-time adjustment is allowed for within our DCF valuation. The recently arranged £15.0m revolving credit facility remains undrawn and ready to support growth.

Exhibit 2: Financial summary

Year end 31 March

£'000s

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021e

2022e

2023e

PROFIT & LOSS

Consumer billings

196,796

208,352

216,771

232,635

232,096

222,207

194,416

192,532

197,463

Corporate billings

176,091

176,679

187,741

180,151

194,805

197,650

166,500

199,800

219,720

Total Billings

 

372,887

385,031

404,512

412,786

426,901

419,857

360,916

392,332

417,183

Revenue

 

85,769

100,556

119,637

111,054

110,394

112,724

93,461

100,995

107,429

Cost of sales

(59,193)

(72,030)

(89,944)

(79,628)

(79,117)

(79,778)

(67,760)

(72,211)

(76,275)

Gross profit

26,576

28,526

29,693

31,426

31,277

32,946

25,702

28,784

31,155

Gross margin as % billings

7.1%

7.4%

7.3%

7.6%

7.3%

7.8%

7.1%

7.3%

7.5%

Distribution costs

(2,761)

(2,909)

(2,940)

(3,002)

(2,934)

(2,838)

(1,805)

(1,765)

(1,669)

Administrative expenses excluding depreciation & amortisation

(14,914)

(15,176)

(16,348)

(15,702)

(16,007)

(18,377)

(17,887)

(17,850)

(18,052)

EBITDA

 

8,901

10,441

10,405

12,722

12,336

11,731

6,010

9,168

11,434

Depreciation & amortisation

0

0

0

(1,405)

(1,394)

(1,659)

(2,113)

(2,350)

(2,350)

Operating profit before exceptional items

 

8,901

10,441

10,405

11,317

10,942

10,072

3,897

6,818

9,084

Exceptional items

0

0

0

0

(1,210)

(3,676)

(989)

0

0

Operating profit

 

8,901

10,441

10,405

11,317

9,732

6,396

2,908

6,818

9,084

Net Interest

1,245

1,457

1,470

1,270

1,572

1,304

263

296

322

Profit Before Tax & exceptional items

 

10,146

11,898

11,875

12,587

12,514

11,376

4,161

7,114

9,406

Profit before tax

 

10,146

11,898

11,875

12,587

11,304

7,700

3,172

7,114

9,406

Tax

(2,284)

(2,177)

(2,361)

(2,398)

(2,422)

(2,189)

(603)

(1,352)

(1,787)

Profit after tax (IFRS)

 

7,862

9,721

9,514

10,189

8,882

5,511

2,569

5,762

7,619

Average number of shares (m)

182.5

183.7

183.9

185.3

186.0

186.3

186.3

186.3

186.3

Fully diluted average number of shares (m)

184.7

187.2

187.2

185.9

186.1

186.3

186.3

186.3

186.3

Basic EPS - IFRS (p)

 

4.3

5.3

5.2

5.5

4.8

3.0

1.4

3.1

4.1

Fully diluted EPS - IFRS (p)

 

4.3

5.2

5.1

5.5

4.8

3.0

1.4

3.1

4.1

Adjusted EPS (excludes exceptional/nonrecurring items)

 

4.3

5.2

5.1

5.5

4.8

4.9

1.9

3.1

4.1

Dividend per share (p)

2.40

2.75

2.90

3.05

3.20

0.00

1.20

1.50

2.10

Pay-out ratio (Adj. earnings)

55.7%

52.0%

57.1%

55.5%

67.0%

0.0%

62.1%

48.5%

51.4%

BALANCE SHEET

Non-current assets

 

13,924

13,749

14,399

14,868

12,606

16,224

18,974

19,924

20,874

Goodwill

1,320

1,320

2,202

2,185

2,168

800

800

800

800

Other intangible assets

3,168

3,036

2,682

2,278

2,295

4,757

7,017

7,767

8,517

Property, plant, & equipment

8,143

8,003

7,688

7,684

6,216

2,662

2,942

3,142

3,342

Retirement benefit asset

1,293

1,390

1,827

2,721

1,927

4,206

4,206

4,206

4,206

Other non-current assets

0

0

0

0

0

3,799

4,009

4,009

4,009

Current assets

 

107,095

119,496

129,322

142,423

153,475

148,041

130,760

138,187

147,636

Inventories

3,186

2,182

2,632

3,808

4,574

2,840

2,000

2,500

2,500

Trade & other receivables

11,309

8,860

9,236

10,917

12,582

9,457

9,023

9,808

10,430

Monies held in trust

65,728

75,219

83,018

86,992

99,251

102,693

96,131

106,196

116,078

Cash & equivalents

26,333

32,735

34,236

40,311

36,868

29,632

21,776

17,852

16,798

Other current assets

539

500

200

395

200

3,419

1,831

1,831

1,831

Current liabilities

 

(121,545)

(128,164)

(133,789)

(142,604)

(148,818)

(140,665)

(123,547)

(128,398)

(133,601)

Trade & other payables

(77,688)

(83,135)

(87,201)

(94,592)

(61,191)

(57,150)

(50,167)

(54,926)

(59,240)

Tax payable

(671)

(262)

(424)

0

(580)

0

0

0

0

Provisions

(43,186)

(44,767)

(46,164)

(48,012)

(58,286)

(53,802)

(46,644)

(45,548)

(45,530)

Non-current liabilities

 

(2,907)

(1,881)

(1,118)

(662)

(553)

(5,253)

(5,456)

(5,456)

(5,456)

Deferred tax liability

(273)

(181)

(194)

(662)

(553)

(1,121)

(1,011)

(1,011)

(1,011)

Retirement benefit obligation

(2,634)

(1,700)

(924)

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lease liabilities

(4,132)

(4,445)

(4,445)

(4,445)

Net assets

 

(3,433)

3,200

8,814

14,025

16,710

18,347

20,731

24,257

29,453

Minorities

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Shareholders' equity

 

(3,433)

3,200

8,814

14,025

16,710

18,347

20,731

24,257

29,453

CASH FLOW

Operating Cash Flow

14,106

12,184

9,603

10,540

6,874

6,866

(4,287)

2,668

6,134

Net interest

1,176

1,339

1,539

1,267

1,497

1,640

263

296

322

Tax paid

(2,132)

(2,490)

(2,258)

(2,537)

(1,576)

(2,864)

(2,184)

(1,352)

(1,787)

Capex

(597)

(1,126)

(717)

(1,020)

(1,152)

(5,030)

(4,619)

(3,300)

(3,300)

Acquisitions/disposals

41

52

(875)

1

0

1

3,047

0

0

Dividends paid

(4,198)

(4,380)

(5,052)

(5,370)

(5,668)

(5,963)

0

(2,236)

(2,423)

Other

0

0

305

0

345

419

(77)

0

0

Net cash flow

8,396

5,579

2,545

2,881

320

(4,931)

(7,856)

(3,924)

(1,054)

Opening net (debt)/cash

14,842

23,238

28,817

31,362

34,243

34,563

29,632

21,776

17,852

Closing net (debt)/cash

 

23,238

28,817

31,362

34,243

34,563

29,632

21,776

17,852

16,798

Overdraft

3,095

3,918

2,874

6,068

2,305

0

0

0

0

Closing net (debt)/cash as per balance sheet

 

26,333

32,735

34,236

40,311

36,868

29,632

21,776

17,852

16,798

Source: Appreciate Group, Edison Investment Research


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This report has been commissioned by Appreciate Group and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by Appreciate Group. Edison Investment Research standard fees are £49,500 pa for the production and broad dissemination of a detailed note (Outlook) following by regular (typically quarterly) update notes. Fees are paid upfront in cash without recourse. Edison may seek additional fees for the provision of roadshows and related IR services for the client but does not get remunerated for any investment banking services. We never take payment in stock, options or warrants for any of our services.

Accuracy of content: All information used in the publication of this report has been compiled from publicly available sources that are believed to be reliable, however we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report and have not sought for this information to be independently verified. Opinions contained in this report represent those of the research department of Edison at the time of publication. Forward-looking information or statements in this report contain information that is based on assumptions, forecasts of future results, estimates of amounts not yet determinable, and therefore involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of their subject matter to be materially different from current expectations.

Exclusion of Liability: To the fullest extent allowed by law, Edison shall not be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential losses, loss of profits, damages, costs or expenses incurred or suffered by you arising out or in connection with the access to, use of or reliance on any information contained on this note.

No personalised advice: The information that we provide should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as, personalised advice. Also, the information provided by us should not be construed by any subscriber or prospective subscriber as Edison’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect, any transaction in a security. The securities described in the report may not be eligible for sale in all jurisdictions or to certain categories of investors.

Investment in securities mentioned: Edison has a restrictive policy relating to personal dealing and conflicts of interest. Edison Group does not conduct any investment business and, accordingly, does not itself hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this report. However, the respective directors, officers, employees and contractors of Edison may have a position in any or related securities mentioned in this report, subject to Edison's policies on personal dealing and conflicts of interest.

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General disclaimer and copyright

This report has been commissioned by Appreciate Group and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by Appreciate Group. Edison Investment Research standard fees are £49,500 pa for the production and broad dissemination of a detailed note (Outlook) following by regular (typically quarterly) update notes. Fees are paid upfront in cash without recourse. Edison may seek additional fees for the provision of roadshows and related IR services for the client but does not get remunerated for any investment banking services. We never take payment in stock, options or warrants for any of our services.

Accuracy of content: All information used in the publication of this report has been compiled from publicly available sources that are believed to be reliable, however we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report and have not sought for this information to be independently verified. Opinions contained in this report represent those of the research department of Edison at the time of publication. Forward-looking information or statements in this report contain information that is based on assumptions, forecasts of future results, estimates of amounts not yet determinable, and therefore involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of their subject matter to be materially different from current expectations.

Exclusion of Liability: To the fullest extent allowed by law, Edison shall not be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential losses, loss of profits, damages, costs or expenses incurred or suffered by you arising out or in connection with the access to, use of or reliance on any information contained on this note.

No personalised advice: The information that we provide should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as, personalised advice. Also, the information provided by us should not be construed by any subscriber or prospective subscriber as Edison’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect, any transaction in a security. The securities described in the report may not be eligible for sale in all jurisdictions or to certain categories of investors.

Investment in securities mentioned: Edison has a restrictive policy relating to personal dealing and conflicts of interest. Edison Group does not conduct any investment business and, accordingly, does not itself hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this report. However, the respective directors, officers, employees and contractors of Edison may have a position in any or related securities mentioned in this report, subject to Edison's policies on personal dealing and conflicts of interest.

Copyright: Copyright 2021 Edison Investment Research Limited (Edison).

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Edison Investment Research Pty Ltd (Edison AU) is the Australian subsidiary of Edison. Edison AU is a Corporate Authorised Representative (1252501) of Crown Wealth Group Pty Ltd who holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (Number: 494274). This research is issued in Australia by Edison AU and any access to it, is intended only for "wholesale clients" within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 of Australia. Any advice given by Edison AU is general advice only and does not take into account your personal circumstances, needs or objectives. You should, before acting on this advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. If our advice relates to the acquisition, or possible acquisition, of a particular financial product you should read any relevant Product Disclosure Statement or like instrument.

New Zealand

The research in this document is intended for New Zealand resident professional financial advisers or brokers (for use in their roles as financial advisers or brokers) and habitual investors who are “wholesale clients” for the purpose of the Financial Advisers Act 2008 (FAA) (as described in sections 5(c) (1)(a), (b) and (c) of the FAA). This is not a solicitation or inducement to buy, sell, subscribe, or underwrite any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. For the purpose of the FAA, the content of this report is of a general nature, is intended as a source of general information only and is not intended to constitute a recommendation or opinion in relation to acquiring or disposing (including refraining from acquiring or disposing) of securities. The distribution of this document is not a “personalised service” and, to the extent that it contains any financial advice, is intended only as a “class service” provided by Edison within the meaning of the FAA (i.e. without taking into account the particular financial situation or goals of any person). As such, it should not be relied upon in making an investment decision.

United Kingdom

This document is prepared and provided by Edison for information purposes only and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for investment in any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. A marketing communication under FCA Rules, this document has not been prepared in accordance with the legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.

This Communication is being distributed in the United Kingdom and is directed only at (i) persons having professional experience in matters relating to investments, i.e. investment professionals within the meaning of Article 19(5) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Financial Promotion) Order 2005, as amended (the "FPO") (ii) high net-worth companies, unincorporated associations or other bodies within the meaning of Article 49 of the FPO and (iii) persons to whom it is otherwise lawful to distribute it. The investment or investment activity to which this document relates is available only to such persons. It is not intended that this document be distributed or passed on, directly or indirectly, to any other class of persons and in any event and under no circumstances should persons of any other description rely on or act upon the contents of this document.

This Communication is being supplied to you solely for your information and may not be reproduced by, further distributed to or published in whole or in part by, any other person.

United States

Edison relies upon the "publishers' exclusion" from the definition of investment adviser under Section 202(a)(11) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and corresponding state securities laws. This report is a bona fide publication of general and regular circulation offering impersonal investment-related advice, not tailored to a specific investment portfolio or the needs of current and/or prospective subscribers. As such, Edison does not offer or provide personal advice and the research provided is for informational purposes only. No mention of a particular security in this report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell or hold that or any security, or that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

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Frankfurt +49 (0)69 78 8076 960

Schumannstrasse 34b

60325 Frankfurt

Germany

London +44 (0)20 3077 5700

280 High Holborn

London, WC1V 7EE

United Kingdom

New York +1 646 653 7026

1185 Avenue of the Americas

3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036

United States of America

Sydney +61 (0)2 8249 8342

Level 4, Office 1205

95 Pitt Street, Sydney

NSW 2000, Australia

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