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Porta Communications PLC: THE INVESTMENT CASE

Porta banishing the post-Brexit blues

There was a bit of a wobble in the run-up to the Brexit vote and shortly after it, but the group's 'buy, build & grow' strategy is taking shape
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INVESTMENT OVERVIEW: PTCM The Big Picture
Porta is made up of several companies and two divisions

Things have been looking up for Porta Communications PLC (LON:PTCM) since an upbeat trading update last September.

The communications, marketing and advertising conglomerate got off to a decent start to 2016 and then things slowed down with all eyes focused on the Brexit vote.

The referendum result may have surprised many pundits but it seems the old British adage of “keep calm and carry on” took hold, and the outlook strengthened.

The second half of 2016 saw the group making a few changes and sorting out a few financial obligations.

Steffan Williams, formerly Porta’s managing director, stepped up to chief executive, taking over from founder David Wright.

Wright became chairman, a role being vacated by entrepreneur Bob Morton due to “health issues”.

Non-executive director John Foley stepped up to become the senior independent voice on the board.

Growing reputation

“In just over four years we have built a very exciting integrated business platform that will fuel continued growth in the group. Our reputation is growing in the market place to the extent that we are attracting some of the best talent in our industry which augurs well for the future,” said chairman Wright.

Porta, the group, is made up of several companies and two divisions.

These divisions are: communications, which includes corporate, financial and consumer PR; and marketing and advertising.

The group owns Newgate Communications, PPS Group and Redleaf Communications, along with 13 Communications, Publicasity, 2112 Communications and Summit Marketing Services and has offices around the globe from Aberdeen to Sydney.

Asia and Australia

The group’s Newgate Australia is one of the star performers in the portfolio, although weakness in the Australian dollar does hit the bottom line when converted back into sterling.

Wright claimed the group is now the market leader in Australia. Porta is looking to launch at least one new company to sustain the anticipated growth.

Meanwhile iIFramen Asia, Newgate Hong Kong had a very solid 2015.

Both businesses were doing well enough for Porta to up its stakes in them in December.

Porta’s stake in Newgate Australia increased from 51% to 57.86%, at a cost of £345,840, to be satisfied by the issue of 8.65mln Porta shares that the sellers will be required to hold for at least six months.

The stake in Newgate Communications (Hong Kong) Ltd was upped from 51% to 60% at a cost of £181,767, to be satisfied through the issue of 4.54mln Porta shares, subject to the same lock-in restrictions as the Australian deal.

“Both of these start-up businesses, which were funded by Porta, have gained traction very quickly in the initial start-up phase and have contributed significantly to Porta's growth and financial performance; solid proof that our overseas start-up strategy has delivered results and is an incentive for local management which, we believe, will benefit all shareholders," said Gene Golembiewski, the finance director of Porta.

Outlook

We’ll have to wait until May for the company’s full-year results to come out, but if the post-Brexit blues have truly disappeared then there is reason for optimism.

More recently, the shares received a fillip from the news that Publicasity, Porta's wholly-owned consumer public relations and digital communications agency, had won a competitive pitch to represent clothing firm F&F Tesco.

The gig covers the UK and the management of a network of agencies across Central Europe, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

F&F will work with the fashion team at Publicasity to promote F&F’s seasonal offerings through media engagement, press events and influencer seeding.

Brokers

The company, valued at around £12mln, is not widely followed in the City.

House broker N+1 Singer does not issue recommendations for corporate clients, but Sanlam, which initiated coverage in February 2015, rated the shares a ‘buy’ back in June, with a price target of 11p.

The shares currently trade at 4p. 

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