Cohort — Robust in a challenging environment

Cohort (AIM: CHRT)

Last close As at 01/03/2024

440.00

11.00 (2.56%)

Market capitalisation

GBP177m

More on this equity

Research: Industrials

Cohort — Robust in a challenging environment

Cohort has delivered a resilient H121 performance, with operating profit rising on 10% lower revenues. There will be a significant second-half weighting as management still expects to deliver a similar overall performance from the continuing businesses to FY20, supported by a record order backlog. In addition, ELAC SONAR will makes its initial contribution in the second half. Our estimates are maintained and the shares trade at a c 5% FY22e P/E rating discount to UK defence peers.

Andy Chambers

Written by

Andy Chambers

Director, Industrials

Industrials

Cohort

Robust in a challenging environment

H121 results

Aerospace & defence

10 December 2020

Price

606p

Market cap

£249m

Adjusted net debt (£m) at 31 October 2020
(excl. lease liabilities)

6.1

Shares in issue

41.0m

Free float

72%

Code

CHRT

Primary exchange

AIM

Secondary exchange

N/A

Share price performance

%

1m

3m

12m

Abs

5

(2.3)

2.7

Rel (local)

(1.0)

(11.2)

11.7

52-week high/low

729p

432.5p

Business description

Cohort is an AIM-listed defence and security company operating across six divisions: MASS (31% of FY20 sales), SEA (24%), MCL (11%), the 80%-owned Portuguese business EID (14%), the 81%-owned Chess Technologies based in the UK (19%), and the newly acquired ELAC SONAR.

Next events

FY21 results

July 2021

AGM

September 2021

Analyst

Andy Chambers

+44 (0)20 3681 2525

Cohort is a research client of Edison Investment Research Limited

Cohort has delivered a resilient H121 performance, with operating profit rising on 10% lower revenues. There will be a significant second-half weighting as management still expects to deliver a similar overall performance from the continuing businesses to FY20, supported by a record order backlog. In addition, ELAC SONAR will makes its initial contribution in the second half. Our estimates are maintained and the shares trade at a c 5% FY22e P/E rating discount to UK defence peers.

Year end

Revenue (£m)

PBT*
(£m)

EPS*
(p)

DPS
(p)

P/E
(x)

Yield
(%)

04/19

121.2

15.9

33.6

9.1

18.0

1.5

04/20

131.1

17.5

37.1

10.1

16.3

1.7

04/21e

142.1

17.7

33.6

11.1

18.0

1.8

04/22e

158.9

19.4

36.3

12.2

16.7

2.0

Note: *PBT and EPS are normalised, excluding amortisation of acquired intangibles and exceptional items.

A positive start to FY21

Trading in H121 continued to be affected by the pandemic, which created some delivery issues across the group, but Cohort continues to execute its growth strategy successfully. Group revenues of £54.4m (H120: £60.2m) were down 10%, with MASS and SEA stable and a lower contribution from EID, Chess and MCL. Adjusted operating profit rose 8% to £4.3m (H120: £4.0m). Following a restructuring that was completed in July, SEA returned to healthy profitability while MASS and EID improved contribution due to better businesses mixes. MCL was lower mainly due to lower naval deliveries to the MOD, while Chess reported against a strong H120 comparison. Operating cash flow was again better than management’s expectations and H121 adjusted net debt (excluding lease liabilities) was £6.1m (H120 £6.8m). The interim dividend was increased by 9% to 3.5p. Order intake was up 15% to £89.2m (H120: £77.2m), with Chess performing particularly well with £51m of orders booked.

Order backlog continues to grow favourably

Prospects are underpinned by the record order backlog of £218.5m, which provides 92% (H120: 83%) cover for FY21 consensus sales, well ahead of the same point last year. Shorter cycle infill orders, notably at MCL, are expected to fill the gap and management still expects strong H221 performance to deliver flat profitability this year. A number of order prospects across the group should support a healthy backlog evolution during H221, including contracts for the recently acquired ELAC SONAR business.

Valuation: A modest discount to peers and DCF

Cohort is performing robustly in the current challenging economic climate, trading at a c 5% FY22e P/E discount to UK defence peers. This is consistent with the upside to our capped DCF valuation, which stands at 631p per share.

H121 results summary

Cohort delivered a robust H121 performance despite the pandemic, which continued to affect operations to differing extents, through disruption and delays to marketing activities, ordering processes and contract placement by customers. The key highlights of the H121 results are as follows:

Revenues fell 10% to £54.4m (H120: £60.2m), with Chess, MCL and EID all lower, while SEA and MASS broadly maintained sales.

Adjusted operating profit was up 8% to £4.3m (H120: £4.0m), as SEA returned to profit following restructuring. MASS continued to make progress, with higher levels of long-term managed service activity, including support to the UK government to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. EID also benefited from a better mix of revenues with a higher level of naval work. Chess and MCL both made lower contributions. Chess had a strong mix of activity in H120, including export deliveries of counter drone systems that did not recur and a higher proportion of deliveries of lower-margin systems with higher levels of bought-in content. MCL experienced lower UK MOD deliveries, primarily to the Royal Navy, and experienced some delays to orders as the MOD directed resources to the pandemic.

Adjusted profit was before exceptional items at SEA of £1.1m (H120: nil) comprising restructuring costs of £573k and a £522k loss on disposal of the subsea activity, as well as the £3.3m (H120 £3.7m) for group amortisation of acquired intangibles.

Adjusted EPS were 12% higher at 7.74p (H120: 6.94p).

The interim dividend was increased by 9% to 3.50p (H119: 3.20p), maintaining the group’s progressive dividend policy.

Adjusted net debt (excluding lease liabilities) of £6.1m (H120: £6.8m) was slightly above the FY20 level of £4.7m despite a cash flow performance better than management expectations.

H121 saw another strong period of order intake, up 15% to £89.2m (H120: £77.2m), with Chess in particular performing strongly with £51m of orders booked.

The period-end closing order book of £218.5m (end October 2019: £206.7m), was again a record and was up from £183.8m at the start of the year. With £71m of the backlog to be delivered in H221, this provides strong order cover of 92% for FY21 consensus forecast revenue expectations before the addition of ELAC. The ELAC order backlog stood at €26.0m at 31 October 2020 and management believe it has attractive medium-term opportunities.

The small non-core subsea business that was acquired in 2014 as part of J+S was sold on 1 September 2020, generating an exceptional loss on disposal of £522k. The ELAC SONAR acquisition was completed on 2 December and made no contribution to the H121 results (see our note, Extending a sound interest).

Outlook

Management points to the record order backlog as support for another strong second half of the year, with 92% of consensus revenue expectations covered by orders, a significantly higher level than at the same stage of FY20.

Management’s expectations for FY21 adjusted operating profit performance is summarised as:

MASS: after a strong H120 margin performance (22%) due to the mix of activity, the FY21 margin is expected to return to closer to historic levels of around 19%.

SEA: following its restructuring management expect a strong H221 performance with £11.9m of its £29.8m H121 order book deliverable in H221.

MCL: the short-term ordering patterns at MCL give the lowest visibility in the group. Management expects full-year performance will match FY20 levels despite the H121 shortfall.

EID: management is confident EID will deliver a stronger performance in H221, ahead of last year.

Chess: order cover of 90% following the strong H121 intake underpins a much stronger H220 performance.

ELAC SONAR: will make its initial contribution in H221, which is expected to have little effect on EPS.

Overall, the record order backlog underpins medium- and long-term revenues, and management see a number of major renewals and new order opportunities that are expected to be won in H221. With the addition of ELAC, the length of the order book also extends with many maritime programmes expected to stretch well into the next decade.

Exhibit 1: Cohort order backlog and expected execution schedule

Source: Company reports

Management notes the longer term may see some renewed constraint on defence budgets as governments seek to address the costs of COVID-19 responses. However, the recently announced £4bn per year increase in UK defence spending contradicts and the cyber security aspect of that increment should be beneficial for Cohort, among others.

Earnings revisions

The only change we make to our earnings estimates is a slight adjustment of the profit contributions between SEA and MASS, with all other estimates unchanged at the divisional and group level.

Exhibit 2: Cohort earnings estimates revisions

Year to April (£m)

2021e

 

2022e

 

 

Prior

New

% change

Prior

New

% change

Revenue

MASS

41.5

41.5

0.0

44.0

44.0

0.0

SEA

34.6

34.6

0.0

35.6

35.6

0.0

MCL

15.5

15.5

0.0

16.0

16.0

0.0

EID

18.6

18.6

0.0

19.5

19.5

0.0

Chess

26.9

26.9

0.0

28.8

28.8

0.0

ELAC SONAR

5.0

5.0

 

15.0

15.0

 

Total group

142.1

142.1

0.0

158.9

158.9

0.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

EBITDA

21.4

21.4

0.0

23.3

23.3

0.0

Adjusted operating profit

 

 

 

 

 

 

MASS

9.0

8.5

(5.4)

9.5

9.0

(5.4)

SEA

3.8

4.3

12.7

4.0

4.5

13.1

MCL

1.7

1.7

0.0

1.8

1.8

0.0

EID

3.2

3.2

0.0

3.4

3.4

0.0

Chess

3.8

3.8

 

4.0

4.0

 

ELAC SONAR

0.3

0.3

 

0.9

0.9

 

HQ Other and intersegment

(3.0)

(3.0)

0.0

(3.0)

(3.0)

0.0

Adjusted operating profit

18.8

18.8

0.0

20.6

20.6

0.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusted PBT

17.7

17.7

0.0

19.4

19.4

0.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPS - adjusted continuing (p)

33.6

33.6

0.0

36.3

36.3

0.0

DPS (p)

11.1

11.1

0.0

12.2

12.2

0.0

Net cash / (debt)

(5.0)

(5.0)

0.0

4.4

4.4

0.0

Source: Edison Investment Research

Exhibit 3: Financial summary

£m

2019

2020

2021e

2022e

Year end 30 April

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

PROFIT & LOSS

Revenue

 

 

121.2

131.1

142.1

158.9

Cost of Sales

(78.1)

(80.0)

(86.7)

(97.0)

Gross Profit

43.0

51.0

55.3

61.9

EBITDA

 

 

17.3

20.9

21.4

23.3

Operating Profit (before amort. and except.)

16.2

18.2

18.8

20.6

Intangible Amortisation

(9.5)

(7.4)

(6.8)

(5.1)

Exceptionals

(0.7)

(0.1)

0.0

0.0

Other

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Operating Profit

5.9

10.7

12.0

15.5

Net Interest

(0.3)

(0.8)

(1.1)

(1.1)

Profit Before Tax (norm)

 

 

15.9

17.5

17.7

19.4

Profit Before Tax (FRS 3)

 

 

5.7

10.0

10.9

14.4

Tax

(0.6)

(0.3)

(1.9)

(2.7)

Profit After Tax (norm)

13.3

15.2

14.8

15.9

Profit After Tax (FRS 3)

5.1

9.7

8.9

11.7

Average Number of Shares Outstanding (m)

40.7

40.7

40.8

40.8

EPS - fully diluted (p)

 

 

33.4

36.7

33.3

35.9

EPS - normalised (p)

 

 

33.6

37.1

33.6

36.3

EPS - (IFRS) (p)

 

 

13.4

23.5

19.5

25.8

Dividend per share (p)

9.1

10.1

11.1

12.2

Gross Margin (%)

35.5

38.9

38.9

38.9

EBITDA Margin (%)

14.3

15.9

15.0

14.7

Operating Margin (before GW and except.) (%)

13.3

13.9

13.2

12.9

BALANCE SHEET

Fixed Assets

 

 

72.9

74.3

78.3

74.6

Intangible Assets

61.9

55.3

54.0

49.0

Tangible Assets

11.0

12.1

16.4

17.7

Right of Use assets

6.9

7.9

7.9

Investments

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Current Assets

 

 

75.6

80.1

107.2

102.0

Stocks

13.5

11.5

16.8

17.2

Debtors

42.7

47.1

50.4

54.8

Cash

18.8

20.6

39.1

29.1

Other

0.6

0.9

0.9

1.0

Current Liabilities

 

 

(36.2)

(32.8)

(35.7)

(39.4)

Creditors

(36.1)

(32.8)

(35.7)

(39.4)

Short term borrowings

(0.1)

(0.1)

0.0

0.0

Long Term Liabilities

 

 

(35.3)

(39.8)

(63.6)

(44.3)

Long term borrowings

(25.1)

(25.2)

(44.0)

(24.7)

Lease liabilities

(7.5)

(8.5)

(8.5)

Other long term liabilities

(10.1)

(7.1)

(11.1)

(11.1)

Net Assets

 

 

77.0

81.8

86.2

92.9

CASH FLOW

Operating Cash Flow

 

 

11.6

13.0

15.2

21.7

Net Interest

(0.3)

(0.8)

(1.1)

(1.1)

Tax

(2.7)

(0.6)

(2.8)

(3.5)

Capex

(2.1)

(2.7)

(2.8)

(3.1)

Acquisitions/disposals

(21.0)

(1.2)

(4.5)

0.0

Financing

0.1

(2.2)

0.0

0.0

Dividends

(3.5)

(3.9)

(4.2)

(4.7)

Other

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Net Cash Flow

(17.8)

1.7

(0.3)

9.3

Opening net debt/(cash)

 

 

(11.3)

6.4

4.7

5.0

HP finance leases initiated

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Other

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Closing net debt/(cash) (excluding leases)

6.4

4.7

5.0

(4.4)

Total financial liabilities

 

 

 

12.2

13.5

4.1

Source: Company reports, Edison Investment Research


General disclaimer and copyright

This report has been commissioned by Cohort and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by Cohort. 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.

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Schumannstrasse 34b

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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

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Level 4, Office 1205

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NSW 2000, Australia

General disclaimer and copyright

This report has been commissioned by Cohort and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by Cohort. 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 2020 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.

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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.

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

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United States of America

Sydney +61 (0)2 8249 8342

Level 4, Office 1205

95 Pitt Street, Sydney

NSW 2000, Australia

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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Research: TMT

Thin Film Electronics — Energising innovation

In January 2020, Thinfilm announced that it was pivoting its proven printed technology and roll-to-roll (R2R) production facility from NFC tags to the development of solid-state lithium micro-batteries. It is targeting markets where the high energy density, flexible form factor, enhanced cycling and improved safety features offered by its innovative technology should be able to command a premium compared with conventional batteries.

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