There is a glaring disconnect between the stock market’s miserly valuation of Kape Technologies (KAPE:70p), a provider of cyber security software and a constituent of my 2017 Bargain Shares portfolio when the shares were priced at 47.9p, and the operational performance of the company.
Adjust for non-cash amortisation costs of $2m, exceptional costs of $0.5m for integrating the two acquisitions made last year, and almost $1m of share-based payments, and Kape’s underlying pre-tax profit surged by a third to $4.85m on revenue up 24 per cent to $29.9m in the first half of 2019. Key metrics are all moving in a positive direction: retention rates improved by 8 percentage points to 82 per cent, one of the highest rates in the industry, highlighting a high level of customer satisfaction; 347,000 new customers were added in the period to take the subscriber base to 1.02m of the 1.2m paying users, the vast majority of which signed up for three-year subscriptions; and forecast cash flow to be generated from the existing user base has increased to $45m over the next three years.
Moreover, the integration of the October 2018 acquisition of Berlin-based ZenMate, a digital privacy company focused on encrypting and securing internet connections and protecting individuals' privacy and digital data through virtual private networks (VPNs), is working out incredibly well. That business is now operating profitably, and benefiting from Kape’s digital marketing expertise and improvements made to its product offering. These include the launch of ZenMate Pulse, a comprehensive web firewall extension that protects against pop-up ads, trackers, phishing schemes, malware and malvertising.
This segment of the cyber security market is a core driver of Kape’s growth. Since acquiring CyberGhost, a leading cyber security software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider of VPNs, in March 2017, Kape has more than trebled its user base and CyberGhost is on course to account for almost $30m of Shore Capital’s full-year group revenue estimate of $72m. On this basis, expect a 43 per cent increase in Kape’s adjusted pre-tax profits to $12.6m to produce earnings per share (EPS) of 6.8¢ (5.5p), up from 5¢ in 2018.
It’s hardly surprising that Kape’s product suite is in demand given the increase in cyber crime, which has made internet users far more careful about protecting their data online. Cyberhost and Zenmate accounted for three-quarters of all new users signed up in the first half, and the heady growth rate shows no sign of abating given that the global VPN market is projected to post compound annual growth of 18 per cent until 2022 when it could be worth $35.7bn, according to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer research data.
Chief executive Ido Erlichman also pointed out during our results call that last summer’s $16m acquisition of Intego, a Mac and iOS cybersecurity and malware protection software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, is performing well, too, adding further weight to Shore Capital’s full-year numbers. Operational improvements aside, Intego’s profile in the industry has benefited from positive media coverage after Kape's macOS security analyst team discovered a number of important malware security threats for Apple users: OSX/CrescentCore malware, which installs malicious Safari extension software, and OSX/Linker, which seeks to capitalise on existing macOS Gatekeeper security flaws.
True, Kape invested $7.1m of cash in new customer acquisitions, but the average payback period is only 15 months and, on a three-year subscription, cumulative revenue earned is 1.9 times its marketing investment, a very healthy return. I also like the fact that Kape is primarily focused on driving organic growth and maximising returns from previous acquisitions, although with a cash pile of $36.4m (20.6p a share), the directors have ample firepower.
Strip out cash from the share price and the price/earnings (PE) ratio is only 9, a ridiculously low valuation for a company that remains well on track to deliver another step change in profitability in 2020 when Shore Capital predicts Kape will report revenue of $83m, pre-tax profit of $16.3m and EPS of 9.2¢ (7.4p). On that basis, the forward cash-adjusted PE ratio is only 7. Strong buy.
■ Simon Thompson's latest book Successful Stock Picking Strategies and his previous book Stock Picking for Profit can be purchased online at www.ypdbooks.com, or by telephoning YPDBooks on 01904 431 213 to place an order. The books are being sold through no other source and are priced at £16.95 each plus postage and packaging of £3.25 [UK]. Postage and packaging is only £3.95 for purchases of both books.
Details of the content of both books can be viewed on www.ypdbooks.com. They include case studies of Simon Thompson’s market beating Bargain Share Portfolio companies outlining the investment characteristics that made them successful investments. Simon also highlights many other investment approaches and stock screens he uses to identify small-cap companies with investment potential, too.
Simon Thompson has been named 2019 Small Cap Journalist of the year at the 2019 Small Cap Awards, a prestigious event celebrating the best and rewarding the finest professionals and companies that work within the AIM and NEX communities. It is attended by institutions, fund managers, brokers and advisors operating in the sub-£100m market cap quoted company sector.