The Christmas season used to have a couple of great standout events, apart from the Queen’s Speech and the New Year’s Honours List. The other two were Top of the Pops, and for more devoted music aficionados, the Festive Fifty courtesy of John Peel.
Part one Highlighted in descending order 20 PHE 19 VDTK 18 SYME 17 RMS 16 ZOE 15 JLPT
Part Two 14 UFO 13 GLR 12 POW &11 PRE
The Stocks of the Year 2020 is clearly less salubrious than the above, especially when related to some companies on the AIM market but can nevertheless be quite entertaining in its own right. Perhaps more importantly, one can use hindsight to provide insight into what stocks maybe tomorrow’s winners. Indeed, after 2020’s Top 20, I will be looking at the top 20 contenders for 2021. For that, I am happy to open the field to anyone who wishes to get in touch and distil the best ideas. I am also happy to stand corrected on the list below. Also, those companies not in this year’s top 20 can still make the grade in the top 20 for 2021 which is due for completion around the last week of the year.
Top 20 of 2020 Criteria:
- Share price performance: Clearly it would be tempting to just list the top risers of the year. This is clearly going to weigh heavily in the list. But just as Mr Market does not always get it right, share price alone is only going to be one factor in the top 20 list.
- The Company: This is a rather broad brush including the aptitude and presentation of the management, PR, IR, the business model, and of course cash generation.
- Market Perception: while this may sound a little like an overlap on PR/IR, it is intended to cover that magic ingredient which can cause some companies with just a dream to multi-bag, and others who are going great guns to be side-lined. Related to this are the companies who are attacked by shorters with no just cause, or successfully ramped while running on fumes. Finally, there is the luck factor. Bad luck is in hospitality in 2020, good luck being renewable. Of course, there is the cliché that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
The Top 20 from 10 to number 2: 2020
10) EQTEC (EQT): Ready For Deployment
The Green Revolution dream clearly gave momentum to proprietary advanced gasification technology group EQTEC. But the reason for the relatively high placed inclusion in the top 20 of 2020 was the “rug pull” provided to the bulls by Aries Clean Energy’s US patent infringement claims. For some reason, stock market cynics complained regarding the close proximity of the £10m placing earlier in July and the legal run-in. However, all of this proved to be a buying opportunity in the stock from below the 0.5p level, something which would have been rewarded by the stock doubling by the end of the year. What was noticeable is that the Fintwit crowd were almost unanimously backing the buy the dip idea, hence also backing the idea of the inclusion of EQTEC at number 10 in the hit parade. In terms of newsflow, the recent highlight has been EQTEC awarding an independent technology and market review to Wood Group and a non-binding heads of terms with Wood and Deltasource to help ensure the effective deployment of EQTEC technology into the global energy-to-waste sector.
9) Novacyt (NCYT): Testing Times
Although there is usually a bunfight on Fintwit amongst influencers as to who spotted the big winners first, in the case of Novacyt, conspiracy theorists will be interested to know that the technical turnaround actually started in mid-November 2019. This was obviously well before “official” cases of COVID-19 began – although, it has to be said the clue does appear to be in the name of the virus. For the PCR testing kit group it has clearly been a phenomenal year in all respects. While those living in Tiers 2 and 3 may wish that people stopped getting tested so much, vaccines or not, testing is here to stay if only for the authorities to prove that lockdowns were and are necessary despite destroying large swathes of the economy. Novacyt has pipped the other “COVID-19” plays to this top ten spot on the basis that it has held the bulk of its share price gains, as well as being the company which seemed to have first-mover advantage in this, particularly horrific Gold Rush. The prize is clearly that Novacyt would become/remain the winner in the diagnostic sweepstake. This is especially so given how crowded the space is for would-be customers, including Governments and health organisations.
8) Greatland Gold (GGP): The Strong, Silent Type
While Eurasia Mining got to the £1bn market cap level with controversy in the City and outside, Greatland Gold shares have risen from around 1p at the start of the year, to 30p with understated ease. Part of this has been due to the steady pair of hands as represented by CEO Gervaise Heddle. Indeed, it can be said that his previous experience at private investor favourites Thor Mining and MetalNRG seems to have paid dividends. As far as the actual Greatland story has been concerned, the year is ending on a high with Heddle stating that the initial inferred mineral resource estimate for Havieron is a really important milestone. This is hardly surprising given the way that the result of the joint venture to date between Newcrest and Greatland has revealed 3.4m ounces of gold and 160,000 tonnes of copper. Indeed, Greatland has been both the mother lode and the flagship for the myriad Australian miners that flourished in its wake in 2020.
7) ECR Minerals (ECR): Diamond Drill Rig Forever
Given that it has certainly been the year of the Australian gold miner, a sector which has been said to have “saved” the economy there, it is not surprising that ECR has been a private investor favourite. Indeed, in September CEO Craig Brown commented on continuing interest in ECR’s Bailieston and Creswick projects with regards to potential joint venture or earn in opportunities. He added that the engagement was not surprising given the interest in Victoria gold opportunities, as evidenced by the many corporate transactions in the area. Since then events have centred on the company’s diamond drill rig and how drilling will commence at the Bailieston project which is located close to the Fosterville Gold mine which is currently producing 500,000oz a year. Indeed, shares of ECR have finished on a high for understandable reasons.
6) Dev Clever (DEV): Education, Education, Education
It should have been the case that anyone who had to go through the misery (or felt it was misery) of homeschooling in 2020 would not only fully understood the merits of Edtech play Dev Clever, but also happily become a shareholder in the career guidance and development platform. In fact, for those who did back Dev Clever shares, it was a phenomenal year given that the stock was trading at just a penny in January versus around 9p near the end of the year. With plenty of shares to be bought via a subscription at 10p over the near term, and Intrinsic Capital entitled to subscribe to up to 50m shares at 25p, there may be much more ahead to look at with Dev Clever than its current partnership with Veative and its recently announced B2C initiative in India. We were reminded of the group’s potential with the $1.2m impact assessment deal, and of course with the tapping of ex-Lenovo Business Development Manager Richard Lee as Global Sales Director of the Educate Division. In April Dev Clever signed a three-year partnership for Dev’s Launchyourcareer.com and VICTAR VR, which are now part of Lenovo’s offering for the online education sector. With the pandemic continuing to shine a light on online education and being tied in with major players such as Lenovo and Veative, Dev Clever’s scalable, international offering has been a 2020 highlight.
5) Chesterfield (CHF): Blue Chip Stakebuilder
In some ways, Chesterfield Resources provided a lesson to all looking at mining minnows, and in particular what might help turn a minnow into a major play. Indeed, Cyprus focused copper and gold explorer was ticking along nicely for the bulk of 2020, with the shares rebounded well with the sector from the March lows seen elsewhere. However, the company surprised even the more seasoned stock market watchers as Polymetal International (POLY), the FTSE 100 precious metals mining group, invested £2,100,000 in Chesterfield to take a 22.5% strategic stake in the company. Perhaps Eurasia Mining watchers will note how this event at the end of November was rather snappier than the process going on at their company. Of course, Chesterfield used this news regarding its new “sugar daddy” to raise £2.5m. But it should be the case that the company can dine out on the blue-chip validation for quite some time to come.
4) Wishbone Gold (WSBN): Living Up To Its Name
Not that we are deep in the top 10 stocks of the year – however esoteric the selection maybe, a company only makes the grade if something or someone special is involved. In the case of Wishbone Gold, it may be said that Wishbone Gold is something which has turned into something special courtesy of Chairman Richard Poulden. This came in the form of a June restructuring leaving the company with no significant liabilities and cash in the bank, while the impact of COVID-19 on the physical gold market at the time made it logical for Wishbone to exploit its gold and copper prospects within the mineral exploration tenements at White Mountain and Wishbone II in Queensland, Australia. Since then the company has applied for a new exploration licence to the South and West of the Company’s existing Wishbone licences and had a successful £1.75m placing to push forward with exploration on the new Red Setter Project in the Patersons Ranges near Telfer in Western Australia.
3) Gunsynd (GUN): A Galloping Pace
Perhaps what has been the most remarkable aspect of the rise and rise of mining investor Gunsynd, and what has placed it in the top three of this particular collection, is the way that the company managed to emerge from being an obscure shell to the favourite of both punter and professional investor alike. Given the small initial market cap and by implication relatively small funds to play with, we were treated to an exemplary run of investments by the company, culminating in the run-up to the Rincon IPO at the end of December. While there is no question that there has been a boom in the Australian mining space, Gunsynd has proven it is not a one-trick or one geography pony, something which sets the company up for even greater achievements going into 2021. Underlining the merits of team, Messrs Harris, Strang and Ruse, has been the latest addition of serial entrepreneur Chris Akers to the shareholder register.
2) Eurasia (EUA): £1bn Bear Burner
2020 was a year in which shares of the “last non-consolidated palladium play” remained non-consolidated, but managed to 10 bag during the year to reach a market capitalisation of more than £1bn. Perhaps just as remarkably, this change of fortune did not seem to change the minds of bears of Eurasia regarding the merits or otherwise of the company. While bears are notorious for never admitting defeat, being £1bn out on any call normally focuses minds. Indeed, not even the arrival of UBS to advice on a sale of the company (it has a significantly largely compliance capacity than the FCA) or a massive rally for precious metals and the mining sector seems to have changed the minds of the cynics. Set against this one must congratulate the management of Eurasia for getting on with the day job, and hence enabling those investors who where not scared out of their profits to cash in on one of the best bull runs of 2020. It could be argued that the rally in the stock has been of such magnitude that whatever strategic options are eventually chosen shareholders are likely to be left smiling.
Join us on Christmas Day when we publish the list in its entirety and we announce the Number One SPOT for 2020
(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Share Talk.)
Zakmir.com is a purely journalistic website – Zak Mir is a member of the National Union of Journalists. There is no intention here of providing financial advice. It is recommended you seek an independent professional opinion before deciding whether or not to take any action with regard to anything written here.