Broker tips: Talk Talk, Oxford Biomedica, IQE, Connect Group, Boohoo
TalkTalk shares surged on Wednesday on the back of a double upgrade from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which reckoned guidance and consensus were achievable for the first time in four years.
The bank, which bumped the stock up to 'buy' from 'underperform' and hiked the price target to 190p from 140p, said that whereas TalkTalk has historically overpromised and under-delivered, new management and its "credible" simplification strategy can reverse that cycle.
In addition, it argued that the stock's valuation was compelling, with EBITDA growth throughFY20 and beyond, while regulatory help is here with the cut in the 40/10mbs wholesale fee in April 2018. It also said that the sale of the company's B2B unit for 12x EV/EBITDA means that net debt/EBITDA falls to a manageable 2.1x.
"After a 22% fall in the share price year-to-date, we see valuation as compelling in the context of profitability having bottomed. March 2019 valuation is reasonable but 2020 is cheap, in our view.
"We don't ascribe any value for M&A nor think that's in the share price. Quite simply bigger, well-funded competitors Sky and Vodafone have organically moved into triple/quad-play - they have little interest in buying TalkTalk, in our opinion, but a take-out remains a possible source of unexpected upside."
Oxford Biomedica's long-awaited OXB-102 deal did not disappoint Jefferies, but analysts felt the share price was up with events.
The broker hiked its target price on the biopharmaceutical company from 825p to 1,100p but noted that with an "insufficient near-term upside" left, it was time to lower the stock to 'hold' from its former 'buy' rating.
Despite the downgrade, Jefferies said it remained confident that Oxford Biomedica's Parkinson's treatment was on a path to sustainable profitability and envisages an "escalating interest" in its proprietary Lenti platform, the long-awaited Phase I/II trial set to start by the end of the year.
Jefferies felt Oxford Biomedica's Axovant deal, which saw OXB-102 licensed to Axovant for $30m upfront, up to $812.5m in future milestones and 7%-10% royalties on sales, was "critical" to the firm as the terms "amply surpass" its prior $200m and 8%-11% assumptions.
Jefferies said, "The recent deal with Axovant for AXO-Lenti-PD increases confidence OXB can successfully establish externally funded vehicles or secure out-licensing deals for the continued clinical development of its two remaining priority pipeline programmes, which we believe should raise awareness of these largely overlooked assets."
"However, after the recent share price rally, we believe the stock is fully valued, hence our downgrade to 'hold'", the broker added.
The broker also noted that, importantly, its model suggested that Oxford Bio now had sufficient cash to fund expansion, repay its debt facility by 2020, and deliver sustainable profitability moving forward.
Concerns about reduced demand from Apple for IQE's microchip wafers has hit the shares but broker Canaccord is confident in the company and sees the share price weakness as "an attractive entry point" for investors.
Last week IQE confirmed guidance of a 40:60 revenue split for the full year, with "strong" wireless activity in the first half and qualification programmes for "over 10 additional key VCSEL chip manufacturers" had begun, with strong progress mentioned across multiple areas.
"Given that IQE would presumably by June have good visibility of VCSEL wafer demand in H2, we took this update to be extremely positive," said analysts in a note to clients. "However, news of reduced demand from Apple has since wiped out all gains."
However, "the combined probability of Android adoption of 3D sensing wafers and the multiple further opportunities mentioned above, suggest that IQE is not the one-trick pony that many seem to assume," added Canaccord's analysts.
This positive view is supported, analysts said as they reiterated their 'buy' rating and 190p price target, by news this week from Taiwanese wafer specialist WIN, which believes VCSEL demand from Apple could triple and its own revenue from 3D sensing will double this year.
"We conclude that forecast risk is firmly on the upside with execution now the only significant downside risk remaining."
Berenberg downgraded Connect Group to 'hold' from 'buy' on Wednesday after the distribution and logistics provider said it had "materially" reduced its full-year profit expectations following an "extremely disappointing" performance since the interims in May.
The bank chopped its price target on the stock to 40p from 140p as it cut its 2018-20 earnings per share estimates by around 30%. In addition, it said it now assumes an 80% cut to the dividend going forward resulting in a full-year dividend of 4.4p in FY18 and 2p in FY 2019/20.
"With the failure of the company to turnaround repeated poor performance in Tuffnells, as well as the departures of both the CEO and CFO, we believe the outlook and investment case for Connect to be unclear at present."
It also said it was prudent not to forecast a recovery in margins for the company's irregular dimensions and weight specialist Tuffnells until Connect has shown evidence of its turnaround.
Boohoo's valuation is no longer "standout cheap" and the brand is slowing, Barclays said as it cut its stance on the stock to ‘equalweight’ from ‘overweight’.
The bank, which lifted its price target to 240p from 225p, said it remains constructive on Boohoo, but with the shares back to a smaller discount to ASOS and Zalando on 33x 2019 EV/EBIT, the valuation is no longer very cheap, albeit still reasonable.
In addition, it argued that the Boohoo brand is notably slowing, which matters as a lead indicator of maturity and hence the multiple.
Barclays said that until it gets more confidence in Boohoo reaccelerating at the same margin, it is hard to have confidence that other brands, namely PrettyLittleThing, won’t reach similar levels of maturity and then slow, without much more investment in the business.
It expects this to be a debate among investors until the next set of results that could hold back performance.
"From here we lack confidence on earnings momentum in either direction in the near term. Boohoo should accelerate as comps ease through the year, but risks are growing and growth is getting harder. PrettyLittleThing is also migrating warehouse imminently, bringing execution risk. So we see less explosive upside here near term.
"Nasty Gal is still small. With less confidence on near-term upgrades to new higher forecasts, we downgrade to EW," Barclays said, adding that it would put new money into ASOS and Zalando.