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Primorus Investments convinced it holds a bagful of winners

Investment just in equity, no convertible loan deals or mezzanine structures
Engage Tech is one of Primorus' key investments

A huge gap in the market exists for companies just below IPO level trying to raise money, according to Alastair Clayton, executive director of Primorus Investments PLC (LON:PRIM).

He'd liked to fill it, but at a market value of £4mln concedes the company is just too small to make a serious dent.

WATCH:Primorus Investments PLC picking out the pre-IPO winners

Instead, Primorus’s plan is to take equity stakes in a few carefully chosen private companies that eventually float, make a substantial return on its initial investment and reward shareholders with dividends.

Clayton says its method is different from other forms of funding for pre-IPO companies in a number of ways.

First, it does not get involved in the running of the business, rather it chooses its investments based on an assessment of the management team and lets them get on with it.

Second, it deals just in equity, no convertible loan deals or mezzanine structures.

Beyond seed capital

Primorus often invests alongside family offices and high net worths, buying a stake usually at the time a company is looking for funds to take it beyond its initial seed capital.

At that stage, companies have established a viable product and are generating revenues, even if modest, he says.

Ten companies are in the portfolio currently, which Clayton says means that all of its seeds have been planted.

It should not be too long either to see if any of these seeds are going to bear fruit.

The first of the portfolio to IPO may be on the listing runway shortly after Easter, though Clayton expects the bulk of the activity to be in the summer, markets permitting, when a further three might float.

At that point, investors will able to get a much better handle of the potential both of the investee companies and likely uplift in value when they come to market.

Right choices

Clayton is confident he has made the right choices.

“Venture capitalists work on the basis of getting one in twenty right, we have to get 10/10.”

Clayton is even more convinced he has one £100mln, possibly even a £500mln company in its investment ranks.

Engage Technology, a company that has developed a cheap, temporary staffing platform is ‘smashing it’ in his words.

“This time next year Engage will dominate the contractor space,” he says.

Primorus has a 3.6% stake after investing in a funding round that valued it at £30mln, but  Clayton wants more and says he will re-jig the portfolio a little to up its stake.

Horse Hill a wild card

That conceivably might mean more of its stake in the Horse Hill Development consortium going on the block.

The company halved its stake in the HHDL consortium to 5% recently.

An extended flow test of the Horse Hill well is to start shortly and Clayton says he can’t wait.

This will go a long way to determining whether the Weald Basin in the UK's Home Counties, where Horse Hill sits, contains a huge and accessible oil basin and, more importantly, it if is commercial.

3D screens

Other notable investments include a stake in Baroness Mone’s WEshop and Stream TV, a US$300mln glasses-free 3D screen manufacturer.

Clayton was a 3D sceptic but was bowled over when he saw Stream TV’s tech in action.

It’s an example of what’s out there for pre-float investors and Clayton would like nothing more than a couple of large venture capital firms to adopt its approach.

“That would shake up the market and get better companies listing.”

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