Avingtrans report increased revenue and gross margin

Avingtrans plc

Avingtrans PLC (AIM: AVG), which designs, manufactures and supplies critical components, modules, systems and associated services to the energy, medical and industrial sectors, has announced its preliminary results for the year ended 31 May 2022.

Financial Highlights

·      Revenue from continuing operations increased by 1.9% to £100.4m (2021: £98.5m)

·      Gross Margin improved by 360 basis points to 34.0% (2021: 30.4%)

·      Adjusted1 EBITDA from continuing operations increased slightly to £12.7m (2021: £12.5m)

·      Adjusted1 PBT from continuing operations increased to £8.2m (2021: £7.7m)

·      Adjusted1 Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations reduced slightly to 21.8p (2021: 22.4p) due to increased tax charge

·      Net Cash (excluding IFRS16) of £16.7m (31 May 2021: £23.3m) following investment in business

·      Final Dividend 2.6p per share (2021: 4.0p) resulting in a total dividend for the year of 4.2p (2021: 4.0p)

 Adjusted to add back amortisation of intangibles from business combinations, acquisition costs and exceptional items 

Operational Highlights 

Energy

·      Revenue increased 5.7% to £97.9m (2021: £92.7m)

·      Metalcraft contract progressed to next phase to supply the Sellafield 3M3 boxes – up by £20m to £70m

·      Booth continues to recover strongly and has completed its factory extension for the HS2 contract

·      Hayward Tyler and Energy Steel win multiple nuclear bids, including next generation enabling contracts

·      Apprentice training school at Chatteris completed and handed over to operator, West Suffolk College

·      Energy Steel restructured and moved to new, smaller facility in Michigan

·      Acquired Transkem for £0.6m (net of cash) plus deferred consideration £0.4m. Concluded the successful integration into Fluid Handling in East Kilbride

Medical

·      Revenue decreased to £2.5m (2021: £5.8m) following pivot away from 3rd party component manufacture

·      Compact helium-free MRI system making good progress – expected to launch in Q4 calendar 2023

·      Complementary £4.0m (11.9%) stake purchased in emerging 3D X-ray leader, Adaptix, in Oxford, UK

·      Adaptix has launched its veterinary product and submitted its 510(K) to FDA in USA for orthopaedics 

·      Potentially significant market opportunities in the target imaging markets for both businesses

Current Trading & Outlook

·      In the quarter since 31 May 22 the Group has generally performed as expected

·      The Board remains cautiously confident about the current strategic direction and potential future opportunities across our markets

·      We will continue to refine our business by pinpointing specific additional acquisitions as the opportunities arise, to create superior shareholder value, whilst maintaining a prudent level of financial headroom, to enable us to endure any subsequent headwinds.

Commenting on the results, Roger McDowell, Avingtrans Chairman, said:

“Once again, the pugnacity of the Group was tested and I’m pleased to report that we stoically fought our way through, despite multiple counterpunches and headwinds. With a strong balance sheet, we moved to invest in capex and new technologies in our existing businesses; bought bolt-on business, Transkem, for Fluid Handling; invested in 3D X-ray pioneer Adaptix; as well as continuing to invest in Magnetica – all with an eye on amplifying our impact in potentially disruptive nuclear and medical imaging markets. The commotions may continue, but we remain agile and steady on our feet – a great tribute to our management teams and all of our employees.”

Chairman’s Statement

The latest financial year saw the Group deliver another solid performance across the board, notwithstanding the on-going “bullwhip” disruptive effects generated by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Board is pleased with the Group’s performance for the year, with robust adjusted EBITDA (note 2) from continuing operations and a stable net cash position at the year end, following investments in Magnetica, Adaptix and Transkem in the period. All Group businesses have experienced supply chain disruptions and customer order delays, but we have successfully circumvented these issues to deliver the expected results and our order book position going into FY23 is both robust and secure.

We deployed our evergreen Pinpoint-Invest-Exit (“PIE”) strategy with the further investment in medical imaging at Magnetica being reinforced by investment in the 3D X-ray business, Adaptix, based in Oxford. Both businesses are making good progress towards launching disruptive and complementary medical imaging products, notably for orthopaedics applications. We also completed the bolt-on acquisition of Transkem in Scotland, which has strengthened the market credentials of the Fluid Handling business there.

Despite the external macroeconomic events, our divisional management teams have demonstrated their agility and resilience in the period, continuing to build strong business platforms.

Aftermarket growth in Engineered Pumps and Motors (EPM) and Process Solutions and Rotating Equipment (PSRE) held-up well and remains central to our value propositions, in order to support OEM and end-user customers. The improving sentiment in the nuclear and oil and gas sectors is generally positive for the Group and this is already manifesting through increased orders in those areas. Our end-user access drives improved profitability and underpins product and service development.

Overall, the EPM division delivered an improved result for the year, despite disruptions to supply chains and order placement. Energy Steel continued to recover positively, with good aftermarket prospects, having moved to a smaller, optimal facility at the start of the period. In the period, we put the potential sale of the HT Luton site on hold, after the original bidder withdrew its offer. We have since had renewed interest in the site, so we are currently considering our options.

The PSRE division has delivered another year of solid progress, with Booth going from strength to strength. In the period, we were delighted to confirm the transition of the important 3M3 box contract with Sellafield to the volume production phase and with an enhanced contract value, up by £20m, to £70m. The new apprentice training school on the Chatteris site was completed and the first intake began in September 2022, as planned.

The investment in Adaptix has cemented the position of the Medical and Industrial Imaging (MII) division as a new niche imaging player, with disruptive X-ray and MRI products in the pipeline. Our eyes are firmly fixed on the market prospects in orthopaedic with Adaptix anticipating the launch of an orthopaedic X-ray product in the coming months and Magnetica on-track to launch their MRI orthopaedic product later in 2023. The Board is excited about the potential of the division, which is expected to yield longer term positive returns for the Group, albeit potentially via a different vehicle to maximise returns, rather than our standard “PIE” process for more mature businesses.

Given the encouraging overall results for the year, the Board believes that it is appropriate to propose a final year dividend of 2.6 pence per share, resulting in a total dividend of 4.2p.

With a robust balance sheet, the Group continues to seek further shareholder value enhancing M&A opportunities, though we will be cautious and selective, given the extreme pressures on the manufacturing sector at present.

Finally, I applaud all Avingtrans employees old and new, for the dedication and resilience that they continue to display in a testing environment.

Roger McDowell

Chairman

27 September 2022

Strategy and business review

Group Strategy

Our core strategy is to buy and build engineering companies in niche markets, particularly where we see turnaround and consolidation prospects; a strategy we call Pinpoint-Invest-Exit (“PIE”). We have had a strong track record in returning significant shareholder value over the past decade.

With an increased presence in our target markets, a focus on aftermarkets, strength in depth of the management teams and a lean central structure, the Group continues to grow profitably – despite the effects of macroeconomic disruptions – and the Board is focused on seeking additions to the Avingtrans value-add proposition.

The majority of the Group’s adjusted key financial metrics trended positively in the period, despite the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Group is focused on the global Energy and Medical markets, both of which play into some of the world’s mega-trends, such as: Urbanisation; an ageing population; and an accelerating transition towards a cleaner and healthier planet.

Divisional Strategies

Engineered Pumps and Motors (Energy – EPM): EPM continues to develop its nuclear installed base (civil, defence and national security) – notably for life extension applications – and its offering to the hydrocarbon market sectors. Energy Steel in North America (acquired in June 2019), which specialises in nuclear life extension, continues to recover well. In addition, the EPM business is developing solutions for new nuclear technologies and other low carbon energy sources, such as concentrated solar, to capitalise on the global energy supply transition. During FY22, EPM delivered a number of key contracts, including more pumps for next generation nuclear business TerraPower in the USA and life extension equipment to the Forsmark nuclear power station in Sweden. Partnership agreements (eg with Ruhrpumpen and Shinhoo) are an important element of the EPM strategy, providing us with a broader product portfolio and cross-selling opportunities.

Process Solutions and Rotating Equipment (Energy – PSRE): Here, the primary strategy is to develop a comprehensive offering to the nuclear decommissioning and reprocessing markets, building on the long-term contracts to build nuclear waste storage containers and the installed base of equipment across the vast Sellafield site. During the period, Metalcraft and Sellafield Limited entered into the second phase of the contract to provide high integrity stainless steel storage boxes for Sellafield. The 3M3 (‘three metre cubed’) box contract is now worth up to £70m, being a £20m uplift to the original contract awarded in 2015. In the year, the division’s nuclear credentials were enhanced by the strong recovery of Booth Industries, which also broadens our market reach into Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). Booth’s multi-year contract with HS2, worth £36m, is progressing well. The PSRE division continues to benefit from a strong prospect pipeline and remains well placed to bid for these opportunities as they arise.

Medical and Industrial Imaging (Medical – MII): Following the Magnetica acquisition in January 2021, the focus for the medical division pivoted towards becoming a niche market leader in the production of compact helium-free MRI systems, for applications such as orthopaedic and veterinary imaging. This is an exciting opportunity for the Group. In parallel, we have exited from volume MRI components supply to customers such as Siemens, preferring to concentrate on our own product development. In support of the core strategy, the division will continue to work on niche Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and scientific magnet products and services, since these are complementary technologies. During the year, we made a strategic and highly complementary £4m investment in emerging medtech leader Adaptix, based in Oxford, UK. Adaptix’s 3D X-ray technology is being developed in parallel to Magnetica’s MRI technology and the two businesses are working in an increasingly synergistic manner.

The common theme which we are seeking to develop across the energy and medical divisions, is the continued pressure on aftermarket expenditure, where operational efficiency, reliability and safety are paramount and operators are looking to their supply chain partners to provide long term support of both new infrastructure and legacy installations.

Pinpoint-Invest-Exit

Continuing our Pinpoint-Invest-Exit strategy, Avingtrans increased its stake in Magnetica to 61.3% in the period, as well as completing the £4m (11.9%) investment in Adaptix, as noted above. We also acquired industrial mixer specialist, Transkem, in Glasgow, and merged this business with our Fluid Handling business in East Kilbride, to widen its market offering. The integration of Transkem is complete and we sold the associated building in early 2022.

The progress of previous acquisitions, Booth and Energy Steel, were gratifying, as both businesses contributed strongly to the results of their respective divisions.

Avingtrans remains confident about the current strategic direction and potential future opportunities across its chosen markets. If anything, some of our markets (eg Nuclear) have seen their standing rise because of the global disruptions seen in the current year, which have caused energy costs to rocket and caused governments to review energy security.

Markets – Energy

The global demand for energy continues unabated and we believe that we will see a consistent period of growth over the next few years. The after effect of the pandemic seemed to be a drive towards increased efficiency and decarbonisation. However, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has also heightened political awareness of the need for energy security and this appears to have rebalanced the rush to renewable energy in the short to medium term, which may benefit our businesses, notably in the nuclear sector.

End User/Aftermarket

Operators and end-users demand a blend of quick response through local support and a requirement to drive improvements through equipment upgrades and modernisation. In the West, where facilities are being operated for much longer than their intended design lives, there is a strong demand for solution providers in the supply chain to partner with end-users for the longer term. The Avingtrans energy divisions are well positioned to grow in this end-user market space.

Nuclear

Nuclear energy as a low carbon, baseload power source remains an asymmetric market with respect to future growth. Almost all the 1GW+ new build opportunities are currently in Asia, with the exception of the limited UK programme. However, we are still experiencing buoyant market segments, including supporting the operational fleet, continued safe operation and life extensions, decommissioning and reprocessing. We are also working on the long-term development of the next generation of technologies – i.e. Small Modular (SMR), or Advanced Generation IV Reactors – e.g. with TerraPower and GE-Hitachi. In addition, these segments all have the backdrop of a consolidating supply chain and paucity of expert knowledge.

The USA still operates the biggest civil nuclear fleet in the world, with 93 reactors generating around 30 percent of the world’s nuclear electricity. Coupled with the heritage Westinghouse technology operating in Europe and Asia, the EPM division’s long-standing position in this market provides opportunities for further growth. Obsolescence and life extension are key issues for nuclear operators worldwide and the Avingtrans Energy Divisions are well positioned to support operators in addressing this critical risk. In addition, recent events have even caused Germany and Japan to reconsider their stance on nuclear energy.

The UK remains pre-eminent when it comes to decommissioning and reprocessing, in terms of innovative technology and overall spend. The Group is embedded in the future manufacture of waste containers for Sellafield and will continue to expand its presence in the UK and globally in the longer term. The development of new nuclear technologies is ongoing, with activity in the UK, South Korea, the USA and China dominating development activity. The Group views these new technologies as an attractive route forward for nuclear and is well positioned to develop as a global industry partner.

Power Generation

The world continues to electrify, with an increasing amount of primary energy going to the power sector, which remains a key focus across the Group’s energy divisions. Aside from nuclear, the main sub-sectors are as follows:

·    Coal – the Group continues to see good aftermarket activity from coal fired power stations even though the demand for new power stations is in decline. Opportunities still exist in India, China, South East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. EPM is optimising its product line, to take market share and to create new opportunities – e.g. in products to remove toxins from the exhaust stacks of power stations.

·    Gas – natural gas, primarily in the form of combined cycle gas turbine power plants has been a growing market space, primarily in the West, albeit now disrupted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Group continues to develop this market with both existing and new product lines.

·    Renewables – renewable technologies and their supporting infrastructure are a growing market globally. The Group has a range of products that can be applied directly to this market segment and also has expertise that can be used to develop new products for niche parts of this market, such as molten salt pumps for concentrated solar applications.

Hydrocarbons

The conflict in Ukraine has pushed European gas prices to record highs and created unprecedented levels of volatility. In response, the European Union is taking steps to reduce its reliance on oil & gas, by maximising supplies from alternative sources. The oil & gas fields of the Norwegian Shelf have for a long time been the principal market for our Hayward Tyler businesses range of subsea and submersible pumps and motors. Over the past few months, we have begun to benefit from the increasing demand for both new equipment and aftermarket services to supply this market. Most informed forecasts are suggesting sustained, or perhaps even higher prices to come.

Markets – Medical

The Diagnostic (medical) and molecular imaging markets are large global sectors, dominated by a few large systems manufacturers. The total Medical Imaging Market is estimated to be worth $32bn in 2022, according to Grand View Research and is expected to continue to grow at 5% per annum until 2030. The largest market is the USA, followed by Europe and Japan. The fastest growing markets are China and India. Following the acquisition of a majority stake in Magnetica (AUS) in January 2021, we merged Magnetica with Scientific Magnetics (UK) and Tecmag (US) and we have continued to invest in Magnetica. The objective of this pivot is to create an innovative, niche-MRI systems supplier, which can address specific parts of the market, not well served by dedicated products at present. This includes orthopaedic and veterinary imaging. In the period, we completed a £4m (11.9%) investment in Adaptix, an emerging medtech leader in the field of 3D X-ray equipment. The development paths of Magnetica and Adaptix are convergent, which enables both businesses to benefit from efficiency and cost gains, as well as optimising the route to market – especially in orthopaedics. Market drivers for these segments include an ageing global population and the rising incidence of chronic diseases.

The growing prevalence of chronic diseases, especially in older populations, is increasing demand for medical imaging in hospitals and other diagnostic clinics. Technical innovations, including advances in artificial intelligence, have increased the reliability and accuracy of medical imaging, thus driving further demand in global healthcare. Medical imaging proved invaluable during the pandemic, to diagnose and treat patients with Covid-19. On the other hand, the market is somewhat inhibited by the high cost of medical imaging systems.

X-ray systems accounted for circa 32% market share in 2021, with MRI systems at around 18%. We estimate that over 20% of all diagnostic imaging scans are of limbs. Therefore, the maximum combined addressable medical imaging market for Magnetica and Adaptix is circa $3bn, in theory. However, the actual addressable market is smaller, since neither business is targeting sales to hospitals – preferring to focus the product deployment on (eg) specialist orthopaedic clinics, where the product attributes are a close match to their needs. Both businesses intend to target other imaging markets – notably veterinary – where the lack of dedicated products has hampered the widespread use of imaging systems.

End User/Aftermarket

Diagnostic imaging is dominated by a handful of manufacturers, including GE, Siemens, Philips and Canon, who account for circa 80% of revenue globally. These players also dominate the aftermarket, though there are a few independent MRI service businesses in existence. Avingtrans is not present in the MRI aftermarket at this time.

Operations

Operational Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for continuing operations

                                                                                                                                                  2022                        2021

·    Percentage of total continuing revenue deriving from aftermarket (AM) sales (%)               42.0                         41.4

·    Customer quality – defect free deliveries (%)                                                                         93.6                         98.9

·    Customer on-time in-full deliveries (%)                                                                                80.5                         69.8

·    Annualised staff turnover including restructuring (%)                                                          17.4                         22.0

·    Health and Safety incidents per head per annum                                                                   0.07                         0.07

·    Environmental incidents per annum                                                                                      0                              0

The AM sales % has improved marginally. This is mainly due to an increase in demand for nuclear spares following a change in government energy policy in South Korea.

Whilst customer quality continues to suffer slightly from Covid related disruptions, we were pleased to have seen improvements to on-time in full (OTIF) deliveries, following targeted plans on Covid induced supply chain disruptions, albeit that our performance here is still below pre-pandemic levels

Annualised staff turnover has fallen, since no significant restructuring exercises having been undertaken in the reporting period. In the prior year, there was restructuring at EPM (caused by Covid-19 effects on the oil and gas market) and at Metalcraft (driven by our exit from the MRI component manufacturing business).

H&S incidents per head per annum is flat at 0.07, following many years of gradual improvement in this measure. Whilst this is a little disappointing, given the improvements we have made to a number of facilities, it is likely that we are getting close to a level where further improvement is increasingly difficult.

As in 2021, there were zero environmental incidents recorded in the Group.

EPM Division – Energy

In the EPM division, comprising of Hayward Tyler and Energy Steel, the main priorities remain to strengthen the aftermarket capabilities and to maximise opportunities in the nuclear life extension market.

The division’s results further improved in the period, having been disrupted by Covid-19 previously. Some adverse Covid-19 effects continued during the year, with order delays and supply chain disruptions still evident, but the impact was less pronounced than in the prior year.

At HT Luton, aftermarket activities continue to grow, including the servicing of third-party equipment. In hydrocarbons, new equipment and aftermarket opportunities have refilled the prospects hopper, with global disruptions and UK government windfall tax initiatives increasing investment in this area. The £10m contract with Vattenfall for the Forsmark plant (for nuclear life extension) was successfully completed in the period, with only some final payments to be received in the new financial year. Further defence orders have been received and are being executed on target, with HT receiving a silver award from Rolls Royce, in recognition of the excellent quality and delivery performance in the last couple of years. In the period, we put the potential sale of the HT Luton site on hold for the present, after the original bidder withdrew their offer. We have since had renewed interest in the site, so we are currently considering our options, as the commercial conditions have changed since we first marketed the site.

HT Inc in Vermont (USA) continued to see good order intake in the nuclear life extension market in the USA – and with KHNP, South Korea, although delays in order intake again affected the results in the US. Proactive procurement blunted the impact of the delays, at the expense of a temporary increase in working capital. HT Inc’s new R&D opportunities – for example in next generation nuclear power – are forging ahead, with further orders received from TerraPower, post period end.

HT Kunshan (China) had a good year, with a number of new orders being received and a strong pipeline to follow, resulting from the Chinese government initiative to reduce emissions from coal fired power stations. This has given HT a new product line to pursue in the short to medium term.

HT India continued to suffer from disruptions due to Covid-19, but the business was, nonetheless, able to turn in a solid performance in the period.

EPM Division (continued)

Energy Steel (‘ES’) in Michigan (USA), continued on its recovery path, with an improved set of results from the previous year. At the start of the year, ES completed a move to a new smaller facility, reducing overheads and rightsizing its capacity. The business has been winning new orders from a broader market footprint, including US nuclear decommissioning National Waste Project (NWP) and the ITER fusion project.

PSRE Division – Energy, safety and security

PSRE had another very solid year, albeit somewhat impacted by the supply chain disruptions and order delays seen elsewhere in the Group.

Booth has made a full recovery and has a record order book, including the HS2 £36m contract awarded in the prior year. Booth also completed its factory extension, with production there now in full swing. We have successfully rebuilt Booth into a leader in its high integrity doors market niches, both in the UK and now commencing internationally. We are also making good progress in building an aftermarket business at Booth, where we see good growth potential.

Metalcraft’s progress with the Sellafield 3M3 boxes was good, with the initial phase of the program now complete. In the period, Sellafield confirmed our transition to phase two of the box contract. The contract value was also boosted to £70m (previously £50m) with circa 1000 boxes to be delivered over the next six years. Metalcraft is the only supplier to transition to phase two of the contract. Frustratingly, the next 3M3 box contract tender remains on the horizon, with uncertain timing, but we are very well placed to pursue this contract and it does not impact on our forecasts, which allow for customer delays. Metalcraft China completed its exit from MRI third party component manufacture and reintegrated with its sister business in the UK.

Ormandy’s results in the HVAC market were not as good as we would have liked, but the business again turned in a reasonable profit in difficult market conditions, which was a creditable achievement. The order book also remains stable.

Our Fluid Handling business in Scotland maintained its consistency, with another good performance in the period. During the year we completed the bolt-on acquisition of Transkem, an industrial mixers business, which was based in Glasgow. This product line complements our other fluid handling activities, and the two businesses are now fully merged on the East Kilbride site, with the Transkem building being sold in the second half of the period.

Composite Products had a steady year, with stable deliveries to Rapiscan for package scanning equipment and the on-going development of other customers, such as Prodrive.

MII – Medical Division

MII has successfully pivoted away from the custom business previously targeted by Scientific Magnetics (SM) and is continuing to work towards new products in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), driven by the acquisition of a majority stake in Magnetica (MNA) in January 2021. With MNA, SM and Tecmag now all integrated as one business, the focus is fully on niche-MRI systems. We are making good progress on this exciting project, with the first orthopaedic product expected to be launched in 2023. MNA (via Tecmag in Houston) will continue to work on products for the adjunct Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) market, including service and support offerings with our third-party partners.

In parallel with our pivot to MRI systems, Metalcraft’s UK and China business for MRI components has now been exited successfully.

During the period, we completed an investment in Adaptix (Oxford, UK) worth £4m in total, being a 11.9% stake in the business. Adaptix is an emerging medtech business, focused on the development of disruptive 3D X-ray equipment, for a variety of applications, including veterinary and orthopaedic markets. The plans of Adaptix and Magnetica are convergent, and we are seeking to exploit this parallel track, to optimise costs in both businesses and to improve market penetration. In the period, Adaptix began to place first products in the veterinary imaging market and, post period end, submitted its 510(k) FDA application for its product for the orthopaedic market in the USA. 

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