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Focusrite: Investors yet to tune into this musical maestro's full potential

AIM-listed Focusrite a British company making a big noise on the music scene.

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Brightly lit: Focusrite has seen a big upturn in demand for its products.

If you want to see how music has moved on I’d urge you to trawl YouTube for a video by the French electronic music producer Madeon.

So far it has garnered 32mln hits and shows the 21-year-old tapping away on a grid of buttons and pads that light up a little like the 1980s electronic game Simon.

The effect is as hypnotic and soothing as watching a virtuoso of the piano, or violin.

The resultant mash-up of nearly 40 samples of songs, tapped out in real-time, spawned the track 'Pop Culture', a huge favourite on the club and festival circuit.

For AIM-listed Focusrite (LON:TUNE) the video has proved an incredible advert for the Launchpad Pro grid controller, created by the firm’s Novation business.

Not that Focusrite has needed to rely on the upsurge in interest across social media.

Its consoles, channel strips, audio interfaces, synths and keyboards are already well known among the musical cognoscenti.

My particular favourite is the iTrack Pocket that allows guitarists to record themselves in sound and pictures and share the results on social media. Whether social media is ready for the results of the iTrack is another matter!

Focusrite and Novation’s devices fuse the best of British innovation and design, yet they are, in the main, still reasonably affordable.

It is a combination that seems to be working for the company, which has increased turnover from £9mln a year to £48mln in just six years.

Focusrite’s surge is reflective of the evolution of technology in the iPhone era, but also the way we consume and pay for our favourite tracks.

“You can sell your music on iTunes and Spotify,” said chairman and founder Phil Dudderidge, who was Led Zeppelin’s first live sound man.

“There are revenue opportunities open to musicians there never were before unless you had a record deal.

“So there is a real encouragement to record. That’s been enabled by a technological revolution over the past few years.

“As a result we as a company have gone from being a very high end analogue business to making products for anyone who wants to record at low cost, but high quality music.”

The firm, based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, designs the accessories and creates the software and apps that go with them, but outsources the manufacturing.

In the UK and Germany it goes directly to retailers, while in the US it has what Dudderidge describes as a hybrid model where it also uses a distributor.

Increasingly e-commerce is part of the mix and Amazon is now the firm’s second-largest outlet in the States.

The company is also planning its own online shop that will maximise the traffic that comes direct to its sites, though Focusrite.

“That is something we will approach gradually without undermining our retail partners,” said Dudderidge.

“But it is something we are looking at, step by step.”

Shares in Focusrite, which listed just over a year ago at 126p each, are now changing hands for 174p – providing a 38% return for those who invested at the float.

The stock peaked at just under 200p, before taking something of a biffing in the wake of full-year results.

The shares fell to 155p after a perceived downgrade by the company’s broker Panmure Gordon.

The results themselves were by any standard strong, with revenues and pre-tax profits up respectively 17% and 12%.

However, there was a currency hit in the numbers – in fact a double hit from the weaker euro and higher dollar – that wasn’t fully factored into Panmure analyst George O’Connor’s initial numbers.

The subsequent bounce of the stock reveals the tweak to the Panmure figures has been absorbed and more fully understood by the market.

Panmure, meanwhile, expects Focusrite’s top line to grow at a decent clip between now and 2018.

Next year it sees revenues growing by 11.5% to £53.5mln, then to £58.8mln and on to £64.3mln. Pre-tax profits will be £6.7mln before motoring on to £7.7mln and then £8.7mln. The firm is sitting on cash of £6.2mln.

Analyst O’Connor reckons the shares, currently changing hands for 165p, are worth 217p each.

“The valuation is very undemanding and gives investors a unique play on digitisation and the growth in electronic dance music,” he pointed out in his most recent note.

“The company is IP- centric and majors on unique, beautiful fit for purpose products.”
 

Quick facts: Focusrite plc

Price: 710 GBX

AIM:TUNE
Market: AIM
Market Cap: £412.59 m
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