Shares in Acal PLC (LON:ACL) rose sharply at the opening bell on Monday after the customised electronics specialist revealed it expects full-year earnings to be ahead of expectations after a strong first half performance.
The Guildford-headquartered group said it has generated “good levels of organic growth” in the opening six months of its year, driven by new project wins and “favourable” market conditions, particularly in continental Europe.
“As a result, full year earnings are now anticipated to be slightly ahead of our expectations,” read this morning’s statement.
The solid start is a continuation of the momentum Acal has been building in previous quarters.
First-half total revenue jumped by 21% to £190mln for the six months ended 30 September compared with the same period last year (H1 16/17: £157mln).
Organic sales in the Design & Manufacturing business – which accounted for 57% of the total revenue during the period – grew by 11%, while the Custom Distribution division saw sales rise by 7%.
Group orders increased by 15% in the half, taking Acal’s forward order book to another record period end high.
The group margin stabilised and was in line with the final quarter of last year, the company added.
“The board is confident of making good progress through the rest of the year, continuing its established strategy of seeking high-quality revenue opportunities in our target markets, along with value-enhancing acquisitions.”
Earlier this year, Acal agreed to buy out UK-based components manufacturers Variohm Holdings Limited in a deal which could be worth up to £13.85mln.
Acal paid £12mln upfront, with a further £1.85mln payable should the new addition achieve certain growth targets and conditions.
It is all part of a strategy to grow its design and manufacturing division with differentiated niche and customised electronic components.
It is clear that Acal expects acquisitions (M&A) will continue to augment organic growth as it recently created a new role of M&A director in March, to which it appointed Jeremy Morcom.
Broker Peel Hunt is a buyer of the stock
Peel Hunt reiterated its ‘buy’ recommendation after the October trading statement, saying the momentum that started to build back in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017 has continued through the first half of fiscal 2018.
Organic revenue growth for the first half was 9%, which was thanks to a better trading backdrop, but Peel Hunt noted the group is also seeing an improvement in the quality of the order book.
“Given the positive underlying momentum in the business, we anticipate further positive news flow as the year progresses and still see upside risk to forecasts,” Peel Hunt said.
With net debt around 1.2 times underlying annual earnings (EBITDA), there is plenty of headroom for further bolt-on acquisitions.
“Management’s long-term strategy of transitioning to a higher growth, higher margin business both organically and through acquisition remains firmly on track, and we see plenty more to go for,” Peel Hunt said, as it stuck with its 360p target price.
As of 23 November, Acal’s shares were trading at 313p.