Half-year report – 17th May 2019

Half-year report

16 MAY 2019

NORTHERN VENTURE TRUST PLC

UNAUDITED HALF-YEARLY FINANCIAL REPORT FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 31 MARCH 2019

Northern Venture Trust PLC is a Venture Capital Trust (VCT) whose investment adviser is NVM Private Equity.  The trust was one of the first VCTs launched on the London Stock Exchange in 1995.  It invests mainly in unquoted venture capital holdings and aims to provide high long-term tax-free returns to shareholders through a combination of dividend yield and capital growth.

Financial highlights (comparative figures as at 31 March 2018 and 30 September 2018)

 

 

 

 

Six months ended
31 March
 2019
Six months ended
31 March
 2018
 

Year ended
30 September
 2018

Net assets £92.0m £93.7m £93.9m
Net asset value per share 70.4p 70.7p 70.8p
Return per share:
Revenue
Capital
Total
 

0.7p
0.8p
1.5p

 

0.4p
0.7p
1.1p

 

1.0p
2.3p
3.3p

Dividend per share declared in respect of the period
Interim dividend
Final dividend
Total
 

 

2.0p

2.0p

 

 

2.0p

2.0p

 

 

2.0p
2.0p
4.0p

Cumulative return to shareholders
since launch:
Net asset value per share
Dividends paid per share*
Net asset value plus dividends paid per share
 

 

70.4p
166.5p
236.9p

 

 

70.7p
162.5p
233.2p

 

 

70.8p
164.5p
235.3p

Mid-market share price at end of period 64.50p 66.25p 66.00p
Tax-free dividend yield (based on the net asset per share)** 5.7% 6.3% 5.5%

*Excluding interim dividend not yet paid.
**The annualised dividend yield is calculated by dividing the dividends in respect of the 12 month period ended on each reference date by the net asset value per share at the start of the period.

For further information, please contact:

NVM Private Equity LLP
Simon John/James Bryce                    0191 244 6000
Website:  www.nvm.co.uk

HALF-YEARLY MANAGEMENT REPORT FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 31 MARCH 2019

The past six months have been another productive period for the company, with four new investments completed and three successful realisations.  We launched a top-up share offer in January, raising our £6.6 million target in just eight days and remain well capitalised to pursue further investment opportunities.  The profile of the unquoted portfolio is evolving as expected as we continue to acquire investments in earlier stage innovative UK companies with high growth potential.  As previously indicated, the profile of the new investments will lead to greater volatility in the timing and quantum of returns and maintaining the current net asset value per share whilst continuing to pay regular dividends remains a priority for your board.  After careful consideration, we have decided once again to declare an interim dividend of 2.0p per share in respect of the period to 31 March 2019.

Results and dividend
The unaudited net asset value (NAV) per share at 31 March 2019 was 70.4p, compared with the audited figure of 70.8p at 30 September 2018.  The total return per share before dividends for the six months ended 31 March 2019 as shown in the income statement was 1.5p (six months ended 31 March 2018: 1.1p), equivalent to 2.1% of the NAV at the start of the period.  Investment income of £1.5 million was higher than in the corresponding period last year (six months to 31 March 2018: £1.1 million) due largely to the benefit of a one-off receipt of interest arrears following an investment disposal.

Venture capital investments
Four new VCT-qualifying holdings were acquired during the period, for total consideration of £2.5 million.  These have all been in innovative earlier stage companies, developing a variety of disruptive products and services and requiring capital to scale up.  We expect that most of the earlier stage businesses we are backing will require further capital in order to realise their growth potential fully and we continue to channel an increasing proportion of our investment activity into follow-on funding rounds.  A total of £3.5 million was invested across seven existing portfolio companies during the period.   

Two notable investment realisations were completed during the period delivering total proceeds of £4.3 million and generating a gain of £1.8 million over cost.  Closerstill Group was the subject of a secondary buy-out led by Providence Equity Partners.  Since our original investment in the business was acquired in 2008, Northern Venture Trust has participated in several refinancing rounds with the original investment ultimately delivering seven times its cost over the entire holding period.  Lanner Group was sold to a multinational trade acquirer, delivering a return of two times cost over the life of the investment.

In addition to the investment sales, both Graza and Volumatic Holdings redeemed loan stock totalling £1.2 million during the period.

Following the venture capital investments and disposals during the period, around 50% by value of our venture capital portfolio at the period-end still comprises investments in more mature businesses acquired under previous VCT rules.  We hope that this portfolio will continue to provide investment income and a series of profitable realisations in the years ahead as the earlier stage portfolio develops.

Shareholder issues
Having reviewed the forecast cash requirements for 2019 and beyond, we launched a top-up offer of new ordinary shares in January, to raise up to £6.6 million.  Strong demand was experienced and the offer was fully subscribed by existing shareholders approximately one week after opening.  Your directors would like to thank all applicants for their show of support in the company and its investment strategy.

Our dividend investment scheme, which enables shareholders to re-invest their dividends in new ordinary shares free of dealing costs and with the benefit of the tax reliefs available on new VCT share subscriptions, continues to operate.

We have maintained our policy of being willing to buy back the company’s shares in the market, when necessary in order to maintain liquidity, at a 5% discount to NAV.  During the six months ended 31 March 2019 a total of 2,791,000 shares were repurchased by the company for cancellation, representing around 2.1% of the opening ordinary share capital.

VCT legislation and regulation
Following significant changes to the VCT legislation announced in November 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not include any further updates in his most recent Autumn Budget.  The previously announced amendments are still being introduced on a phased basis and the main change in the short term is that the minimum proportion of investments required to be held in VCT-qualifying holdings will increase from 70% to 80%.  This change will first apply to your company from 30 September 2019 and we will continue to work closely with our investment adviser, NVM in order to maintain compliance with the relevant legislation at all times.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) launched a consultation in December 2016 to consider how to streamline the advanced assurance service – the process whereby potential investments may be given an indicative opinion of eligibility.  The consultation conclusions called for a greater level of self-assurance by VCTs, but provided little guidance on how this should work in practice.  Since the consultation NVM has been in discussions with HMRC, professional advisers and other market participants on this topic and progress has recently been made, with formal guidance on the self-assurance process now available.  Your board has therefore concluded that it is appropriate for the company to self-assure those investments meeting certain criteria, where a professional opinion has been obtained by NVM supporting their eligibility.

VCT qualifying status
The company has continued to meet the stringent qualifying conditions laid down by HM Revenue & Customs for maintaining its approval as a VCT.  NVM, monitors the position closely and reports regularly to the board.  Philip Hare & Associates LLP has continued to act as independent adviser to the company on VCT taxation matters.

Outlook
The political and economic environment has remained uncertain over the past few years and the lack of clarity over the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between Britain and the rest of the EU looks set to continue.  We remain committed to expanding the portfolio of innovative earlier stage companies and believe that the potential returns from these investments in the medium to long term remain attractive.

On behalf of the Board

Simon Constantine
Chairman

Extracts from the unaudited half-yearly financial statements for the six months ended 31 March 2019 are set out below.

INCOME STATEMENT
(unaudited) for the six months ended 31 March 2019

  Six months ended 31 March 2019  Six months ended 31 March 2018 
  Revenue 
£000 
Capital 
£000 
Total 
£000 
Revenue 
£000 
Capital 
£000 
Total 
£000 
Gain on disposal of investments –  511  511  –  415  415 
Movements in fair value of investments –  1,148  1,148  –  1,018  1,018 
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
  –  1,659  1,659  –  1,433  1,433 
Income 1,489  –  1,489  1,088  –  1,088 
Investment management fee (222) (667) (889) (216) (648) (864)
Other expenses (250) –  (250) (241) (11) (252)
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Return on ordinary activities before tax 1,017  992  2,009  631  774  1,405 
Tax on return on ordinary activities (143) 143  –  (96) 96  – 
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Return on ordinary activities after tax 874  1,135  2,009  535  870  1,405 
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Return per share 0.7p 0.8p 1.5p 0.4p 0.7p 1.1p

    Year ended 30 September 2018 
   

 

 

 

 

 

Revenue 
£000 
Capital 
£000 
Total 
£000 
Gain on disposal of investments       –  4,997  4,997 
Movements in fair value of investments       –  (1,039) (1,039) 
        ———-  ———-  ———- 
        –  3,958  3,958 
Income       2,491  –  2,491 
Investment management fee       (427) (1,281) (1,708)
Other expenses       (449) (11) (460)
        ———-  ———-  ———- 
Return on ordinary activities before tax       1,615  2,666  4,281 
Tax on return on ordinary activities       (257) 257  – 
        ———-  ———-  ———- 
Return on ordinary activities after tax       1,358  2,923  4,281 
        ———-  ———-  ———- 
Return per share       1.0p 2.3p 3.3p

BALANCE SHEET
(unaudited) as at 31 March 2019

  31 March 2019  31 March 2018  30 September 2018 
  £000  £000  £000 
Fixed assets:      
Investments 71,183  72,988  69,318 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Current assets:      
 Debtors 229  312  141 
 Cash and cash equivalents 27,245  20,539  24,557 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
  27,474  20,851  24,698 
Creditors (amounts falling due within one year) (6,697) (120) (106)
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Net current assets 20,777  20,731  24,592 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
       
Net assets 91,960  93,719  93,910 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
       
Capital and reserves:      
Called-up equity share capital 32,641  33,159  33,142 
Share premium 1,133  481  817 
Capital redemption reserve 1,576  663  879 
Capital reserve 49,028  50,767  51,617 
Revaluation reserve 5,599  7,036  6,346 
Revenue reserve 1,983  1,613  1,109 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Total equity shareholders’ funds 91,960  93,719  93,910 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Net asset value per share 70.4p 70.7p 70.8p

STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

(unaudited) for the six months ended 31 March 2019

  —————Non-distributable reserves————— Distributable reserves Total 
  Called up share 
capital 
 

Share 
premium 

Capital 
redemption 
reserve 
 

Revaluation 
reserve* 

 

Capital 
reserve 

 

Revenue 
reserve 

 
  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000 
At 1 October 2018 33,142  817  879  6,346  51,617  1,109  93,910 
Return on ordinary activities              
after tax –  –  –  (747) 1,882 874  2,009 
Dividends paid –  –  –  –  (2,651) (2,651)
Net proceeds of share issues 196  316  –  –  –  –  512 
Shares purchased for cancellation  

(697)

 

 

697

 

 

(1,820)

 

 

(1,820)

 
Cancellation of share premium reserve  
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
At 31 March 2019 32,641  1,133  1,576  5,599  49,028  1,983  91,960 
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 

STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

(unaudited) for the six months ended 31 March 2018

  —————Non-distributable reserves————— Distributable reserves Total 
  Called up share 
capital 
 

Share 
premium 

Capital 
redemption 
reserve 
 

Revaluation 
reserve* 

 

Capital 
reserve 

 

Revenue 
reserve 

 
  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000 
At 1 October 2017 26,256  6,941  544  5,972  34,150  2,397  76,260 
Return on ordinary activities              
after tax –  –  –  1,064 (194)  535  1,405 
Dividends paid –  –  –  –  (2,643) (1,319) (3,962)
Net proceeds of share issues 7,022  13,311  –  –  –  –  20,333 
Shares purchased for cancellation (119) 119 (317) (317)
Cancellation of share premium reserve (19,771) 19,771
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
At 31 March 2018 33,159  481  663  7,036  50,767  1,613  93,719 
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 

STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

for the year ended 30 September 2018

  —————Non-distributable reserves————— Distributable reserves Total 
  Called up share 
capital 
 

Share 
premium 

Capital 
redemption 
reserve 
 

Revaluation 
reserve* 

 

Capital 
reserve 

 

Revenue 
reserve 

 
  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000  £000 
At 1 October 2017 26,256  6,941  544  5,972  34,150  2,397  76,260 
Return on ordinary activities              
after tax –  –  –  374  2,549  1,358  4,281 
Dividends paid –  –  –  –  (3,966) (2,646) (6,612)
Net proceeds of share issues 7,221  13,647  –  –  –  20,868 
Shares purchased for cancellation (335) 335 (887) (887)
Cancellation of share premium reserve (19,771) 19,771
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 
At 30 September 2018 33,142  817  879  6,346  51,617  1,109  93,910 
  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———-  ———- 

*The revaluation reserve is generally non-distributable other than that part of the reserve relating to gains/losses on readily realisable quoted investments, which is distributable.

STATEMENT OF CASH FLOWS
(unaudited) for the six months ended 31 March 2019

  Six months ended  Six months ended  Year ended 
  31 March 2019  31 March 2018  30 September 2018 
  £000  £000  £000 
Cash flows from operating activities:      
Return on ordinary activities before tax 2,009  1,405  4,281 
Adjustments for:      
Gain on disposal of investments (511) (415) (4,997)
Movement in fair value of investments (1,148) (1,018) 1,039
(Increase)/decrease in debtors (89) 349 520
(Decrease)/increase in creditors (3) 39 25
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Net cash inflow from operating activities 258 360 868
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Cash flows from investing activities:      
Purchase of investments (12,963) (7,033) (14,257)
Sale/repayment of investments 12,757  1,176  14,596 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Net cash (outflow)/inflow from investing activities (206)  (5,857)  339 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Cash flows from financing activities:      
Issue of ordinary shares 540  20,769  21,317 
Share issue expenses (26) (435) (449)
Share subscriptions held pending allotment 6,593  –  – 
Purchase of ordinary shares for cancellation (1,820)  (317)  (887)   
Equity dividends paid (2,651) (3,962) (6,612)
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Net cash inflow from financing activities 2,636  16,055  13,369 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Net increase in cash and cash equivalents 2,688  10,558  14,576   
Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of period 24,557  9,981  9,981 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 
Cash and cash equivalents at end of period 27,245  20,539  24,557 
  ———-  ———-  ———- 

INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO SUMMARY
as at 31 March 2019

  Cost
£000
Valuation
£000
% of net assets
by valuation
Fifteen largest venture capital investments:      
Sorted Holdings 3,022 4,034 4.4%
MSQ Partners Group 1,695 3,533 3.8%
Agilitas IT Holdings 1,662 3,315 3.6%
No 1 Lounges 2,006 2,990 3.3%
Lineup Systems 975 2,910 3.2%
SHE Software Group 2,058 2,243 2.4%
Volumatic Holdings 1,078 2,112 2.3%
Entertainment Magpie Group 1,611 2,051 2.2%
Biological Preparations Group 2,366 1,928 2.1%
Currentbody.com 1,413 1,817 2.0%
AVID Technology Group 1,353 1,721 1.9%
It’s All Good 1,205 1,701 1.8%
Weldex (International) Offshore Holdings 3,262 1,670 1.8%
Intelling Group 1,222 1,647 1.8%
Intuitive Holding 1,674 1,630 1.8%
  ———— ———— ————
  26,602 35,302 38.4%
Other venture capital investments 29,662 26,191 28.5%
  ———— ———— ————
Total venture capital investments 56,264 61,493 66.9%
Listed equity investments 9,320 9,690 10.6%
  ———— ———— ————
Total fixed asset investments 65,584 71,183 77.4%
  ————    
Cash and cash equivalents   27,245 29.6%
Debtors less creditors   (6,468) (7.0%)
    ———— ————
Net assets   91,960 100.0%
    ———— ————
       

RISK MANAGEMENT

The board carries out a regular and robust review of the risk environment in which the company operates.  The principal risks and uncertainties identified by the board which might affect the company’s business model and future performance, and the steps taken with a view to their mitigation, are as follows:

Investment and liquidity risk: investment in smaller and unquoted companies, such as those in which the company invests, involves a higher degree of risk than investment in larger listed companies because they generally have limited product lines, markets and financial resources and may be more dependent on key individuals. The securities of smaller companies in which the company invests are typically unlisted, making them illiquid, and this may cause difficulties in valuing and disposing of the securities. The company may invest in businesses whose shares are quoted on AIM – the fact that a share is quoted on AIM does not mean that it can be readily traded and the spread between the buying and selling prices of such shares may be wide.  Mitigation: the directors aim to limit the risk attaching to the portfolio as a whole by careful selection, close monitoring and timely realisation of investments, by carrying out rigorous due diligence procedures and maintaining a wide spread of holdings in terms of financing stage and industry sector.  The board reviews the investment portfolio with the investment adviser on a regular basis.

Financial risk: most of the company’s investments involve a medium to long-term commitment and many are relatively illiquid. Mitigation: the directors consider that it is inappropriate to finance the company’s activities through borrowing except on an occasional short-term basis.  Accordingly they seek to maintain a proportion of the company’s assets in cash or cash equivalents in order to be in a position to pursue new unquoted investment opportunities and to make follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies.  The company has very little direct exposure to foreign currency risk and does not enter into derivative transactions.

Economic risk: events such as economic recession or general fluctuation in stock markets, exchange rates and interest rates may affect the valuation of investee companies and their ability to access adequate financial resources, as well as affecting the company’s own share price and discount to net asset value. Mitigation: the company invests in a diversified portfolio of investments spanning various industry sectors, and maintains sufficient cash reserves to be able to provide additional funding to investee companies where appropriate.

Stock market risk: some of the company’s investments are quoted on the London Stock Exchange or AIM and will be subject to market fluctuations upwards and downwards. External factors such as terrorist activity can negatively impact stock markets worldwide. In times of adverse sentiment there may be very little, if any, market demand for shares in smaller companies quoted on AIM. Mitigation: the company’s quoted investments are actively managed by specialist advisers, including NVM in the case of the AIM-quoted investments, and the board keeps the portfolio and the actions taken under ongoing review.

Credit risk: the company holds a number of financial instruments and cash deposits and is dependent on the counterparties discharging their commitment. Mitigation: the directors review the creditworthiness of the counterparties to these instruments and cash deposits and seek to ensure there is no undue concentration of credit risk with any one party.

Legislative and regulatory risk: in order to maintain its approval as a VCT, the company is required to comply with current VCT legislation in the UK, which reflects the European Commission’s State-aid rules. Changes to the UK legislation or the State-aid rules in the future could have an adverse effect on the company’s ability to achieve satisfactory investment returns whilst retaining its VCT approval. Mitigation: the board and the investment adviser monitor political developments and where appropriate seek to make representations either directly or through relevant trade bodies.

Internal control risk: the company’s assets could be at risk in the absence of an appropriate internal control regime. Mitigation: the board regularly reviews the system of internal controls, both financial and non-financial, operated by the company and the investment adviser.  These include controls designed to ensure that the company’s assets are safeguarded and that proper accounting records are maintained.

VCT qualifying status risk: while it is the intention of the directors that the company will be managed so as to continue to qualify as a VCT, there can be no guarantee that this status will be maintained. A failure to continue meeting the qualifying requirements could result in the loss of VCT tax relief, the company losing its exemption from corporation tax on capital gains, to shareholders being liable to pay income tax on dividends received from the company and, in certain circumstances, to shareholders being required to repay the initial income tax relief on their investment. Mitigation: the investment adviser keeps the company’s VCT qualifying status under continual review and its reports are reviewed by the board on a quarterly basis.  The board has also retained Philip Hare & Associates LLP to undertake an independent VCT status monitoring role.

OTHER MATTERS

The unaudited half-yearly financial statements for the six months ended 31 March 2019 do not constitute statutory financial statements within the meaning of Section 434 of the Companies Act 2006, have not been reviewed or audited by the company’s independent auditor and have not been delivered to the Registrar of Companies.  The comparative figures for the year ended 30 September 2018 have been extracted from the audited financial statements for that year, which have been delivered to the Registrar of Companies.  The auditor’s report on those financial statements (i) was unqualified, (ii) did not include any reference to matters to which the auditor drew attention by way of emphasis without qualifying the report and (iii) did not contain a statement under Section 498 (2) or (3) of the Companies Act 2006. The half-yearly financial statements have been prepared on the basis of the accounting policies set out in the annual financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2018.

Each of the directors confirms that to the best of their knowledge the half-yearly financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the Statement “Half-yearly financial reports” issued by the UK Accounting Standards Board and the half-yearly financial report includes a fair review of the information required by (a) DTR 4.2.7R of the Disclosure Rules and Transparency Rules, being an indication of important events that have occurred during the first six months of the financial year and their impact on the condensed set of financial statements, and a description of the principal risks and uncertainties for the remaining six months of the year, and (b) DTR 4.2.8R of the Disclosure Rules and Transparency Rules, being related party transactions that have taken place in the first six months of the current financial year and that have materially affected the financial position or performance of the entity during that period, and any changes in the related party transactions described in the last annual report that could do so.

The directors of the company at the date of this statement were Mr S J Constantine (Chairman), Mr N J Beer, Mr R J Green, Mr T R Levett, Mr D A Mayes and Mr H P Younger.

The calculation of return per share is based on the return on ordinary activities after tax for the six months ended 31 March 2019 and on 131,929,348 (2018: 127,587,005) ordinary shares, being the weighted average number of shares in issue during the period.

The calculation of the net asset value per share is based on the net assets at 31 March 2019 divided by the 130,562,141 (2018: 132,635,462) ordinary shares in issue at that date.

The interim dividend of 2.0p per share for the year ending 30 September 2019 will be paid on 27 June 2019 to shareholders on the register at the close of business on 7 June 2019.

A copy of the half-yearly financial report for the six months ended 31 March 2019 is expected to be posted to shareholders by 30 May 2019 and will be available to the public at the registered office of the company at Time Central, 32 Gallowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4SN and on the NVM Private Equity LLP website, www.nvm.co.uk.

Neither the contents of the NVM Private Equity LLP website nor the contents of any website accessible from hyperlinks on the NVM Private Equity LLP website (or any other website) is incorporated into, or forms part of, this announcement.
                                                                              

NASDAQ_1000193270-en

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