Howzat! A six at last

Financial Mail - - MARKET WATCH - @mar­chasen­fuss by Marc Hasen­fuss

Plague dairy — week 15. My tim­ing has never been great. As statis­tics gen­er­ated by my HRI (Hasen­fuss Re­verse In­di­ca­tor — patent pend­ing) will con­sis­tently re­flect, I am usu­ally out of a stock when I should be in and vice versa. This of­ten ap­plies to life too.

One mem­o­rable ex­cep­tion was scor­ing 65 for the Spin Doc­tors XI some years back. Cal­cu­lat­ing that the lower mid­dle or­der would not be re­quired to pad up dur­ing our turn at the crease, I thought it pru­dent — be­fore open­ing the bowl­ing — to wash down a mus­cle re­lax­ant or three with a few Scrumpy Jack ciders.

Vil­lage cricket at its very best. My basking was in­ter­rupted when I spied my dis­tressed skip­per (and well­known po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor), Richard Cal­land, ges­tic­u­lat­ing for me to pad up. A cou­ple of quick wick­ets had fallen, and I — usu­ally good for a brisk 15, 16 or 17 runs at the end of an in­nings — was to make a cameo to el­e­vate a flag­ging rate. As I weaved my way to the crease, I was over­come by an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic calm­ness (even though I had ne­glected to put in my box). Calm­ness quickly turned to con­fi­dence as I started see­ing the ball as big as a pump­kin.

I be­lieve I could have bat­ted with a rapier, and clubbed the ball in any di­rec­tion. I do ever so slightly regret not get­ting an as­ter­isk at the end of that whirl­wind in­nings, but I seem to re­mem­ber my bat­ting part­ner (who shall re­main name­less) op­ti­misti­cally push­ing for three off the last ball.

I retired from Sun­day league cricket soon af­ter that, re­al­is­ing that sweetly timed stroke-mak­ing would never be at­tained again. There might also have been an el­e­ment of self-preser­va­tion: some younger team mem­bers were set­ting a frankly fright­en­ing prece­dent by div­ing for the ball in the cov­ers.

While it’s too early to claim knock­ing the ball out of the park, I can op­ti­misti­cally sug­gest I might have fi­nally timed an in­vest­ment to per­fec­tion. Un­her­alded tech group PBT was one of the small caps I took a lik­ing to dur­ing the ini­tial Covid-19 stock price smack­down.

Early on Mon­day I was greeted with a trad­ing up­date pen­cilling in head­line earn­ings growth of be­tween 62% and 73% to 29.5c and 31.5c a share. The com­ments sim­ply read: “Con­tin­ued de­mand for ser­vices.”

The group paid a 12c a share div­i­dend on in­terim earn­ings of 16c a share, and I won­der if this gen­er­ous div­i­dend cover will re­main in place for the full fi­nan­cial year. But even if the sec­ond-half pay­out is tem­pered to just 8c, a full-year pay­out of 20c a share will mean PBT is yield­ing close to 11%.

I don’t think I will be run­ning my­self out of this one any­time soon.

Cab­bage patch

Speak­ing of play­ing a long in­nings, ef­forts at agribusi­ness group Crookes Brothers to di­ver­sify away from its tra­di­tional sugar core are prov­ing ar­du­ous. The de­cid­u­ous fruit busi­ness had a rot­ten fi­nan­cial year to end-march with an op­er­at­ing loss af­ter a bi­o­log­i­cal as­set fair value ad­just­ment of R19.2m. The High Noon farm is now on the block.

I have been, how­ever, keep­ing tabs on Crookes’ macadamia nut busi­ness, which — al­beit small with rev­enue of just R31m — has good po­ten­tial in a world ob­sessed with healthy eat­ing. Dis­ap­point­ingly, the 2020 crop, har­vested af­ter the year-end, was 60% down against the tar­get of 807t as un­sea­son­ally warm spring tem­per­a­tures ad­versely af­fected crop yields. But man­age­ment is de­ter­mined to mit­i­gate agri­cul­tural risk in fu­ture and is tar­get­ing 920t of macadamia for the next har­vest in March 2021.

Crookes is ex­pand­ing its macadamia op­er­a­tion by 330ha over the next two to three years. This will be funded by a 10-year $8m (R135m) loan pro­vided by a de­vel­op­ment fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion.

At around R40 I think Crookes will be ripe for the pick­ing for an in­vestor with a bit of pa­tience, as­sum­ing the R700m mar­ket value does not ap­peal to a cash-flush agribusi­ness in­vestor like Zeder.

I can op­ti­misti­cally sug­gest I might have fi­nally timed an in­vest­ment to per­fec­tion

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