Howzat! A six at last
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.
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