Interactive Investor

The 20 most-popular AIM stocks of 2022

29th December 2022 11:00

Andrew Hore from interactive investor

There are gems to be found among smaller companies traded on AIM, and it’s where many companies of the future begin life. Our award-winning AIM writer Andrew Hore looks at the ones that grabbed your interest this year.

Overall, trading on AIM has been at lower levels this year. There were 20.3 million trades during 2021 and there are unlikely to be 15 million trades in 2022. However, this will still be the third-most trades on AIM in any single year. Liquidity can vary with individual companies, but there are plenty of them that are traded regularly.

In the table below, are the top 20 AIM companies on the interactive investor investment platform in terms of share purchases during 2022.  

Online retailer Boohoo Group (LSE:BOO) remains a firm favourite among investors, even though the share price has fallen by two-thirds in 2022. The price is below the 50p a share placing price when Boohoo joined AIM on 14 March 2014 and is nearly 90% below the all-time high reached in the summer of 2020.

Revenues are declining and gross margins are falling as return rates increase. The US has performed particularly badly because of long delivery times. The new US distribution centre will help when it is launched in the middle of 2023, but the investment will push Boohoo into a net debt position. A pre-tax profit of around £1 million is expected this year and there is potential for recovery.

Rival online retailer ASOS (LSE:ASC) would have been near the top of the most-traded companies if it had not moved to the Main Market earlier in the year. There are other large AIM companies that are consistently traded that are in the table, such as mixer drinks brand Fevertree Drinks (LSE:FEVR) and airline and tour operator Jet2 (LSE:JET2), which is recovering as travel restrictions have eased following the pandemic.

Russia-focused explorer Eurasia Mining (LSE:EUA) was particularly actively traded at the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After a sharp fall in late February there has been a relatively steady decline for the rest of the year. Investors must believe that the price has fallen so far that the risk is worth the potential reward.

However, significant finance will be required to develop the company’s mining assets in Russia. Just prior to the Ukraine invasion, plans were announced to spin off the platinum group metals assets into a new subsidiary. This would allow Eurasia Mining to concentrate on its nickel interests. Eurasia Mining reported a first-half profit because of a foreign exchange gain on the value of assets expressed in Russian roubles.

Africa-focused sustainable forestry company Woodbois Ltd (LSE:WBI) is one of the more surprising companies on the list. Larger shareholders Lombard Odier and Rhino Ventures were selling shares during 2022. It appears that small investors were picking up these shares because most of the trades have been small.

In October, Canaccord Genuity rated Woodbois as a speculative buy even though it reduced its expectations for 2023. Revenues are increasing but net debt is $10.9 million (£9.1 million).

There are sectors which appear particularly appealing to investors. They are ones where there is a potentially significant upside for the share price, but there is also more risk.

Are these fuel cell firms the future?

Fuel cells and electrolysers developers remain a focus for AIM investors. ITM Power (LSE:ITM) is the second-most bought share and Ceres Power Holdings (LSE:CWR) the fourth. AFC Energy (LSE:AFC) is also in the top 20.  

The share prices of these companies peaked early in 2021 when they were some of the largest companies on AIM. They have been on a downward trend since then. This is due to their previously heady ratings as well as delays and disappointments.

There has been a change in chief executive at ITM Power and Ceres Power has admitted to delays in completing the details of its China joint venture with Robert Bosch and Weichai Power – which should happen in 2023.

The fuel cell companies still have plenty of cash in the bank because of past fundraisings, but cash is flowing out at quite a rate. There is little in the way of fundamentals to underpin the share prices of the fuel cell developers.  

Buying oil and gas en masse

Unsurprisingly, the top 20 is dominated by oil and gas companies benefiting from the surge in oil prices earlier in the year. Alaska-focused explorer Pantheon Resources (LSE:PANR), the most-bought company in the sector, is number eight in the top 20.  

This is a speculative investment. A reservoir modelling report from Schlumberger commissioned by Pantheon Resources showed oil in place estimates for Alkaid, Theta West and Talitha of 1.67 billion barrels, 10.9 billion barrels and 5.26 billion barrels respectively.

This is lower than the company’s own previous estimates and it disappointed the market. The potential for these assets is enormous, but there is still some way to go before they start generating cash.

Serica Energy (LSE:SQZ), i3 Energy (LSE:I3E) and Baron Oil (LSE:BOIL) all have interests in the North Sea, and Angus Energy (LSE:ANGS) is focused on UK onshore assets. Changes to the tax regime have stemmed the potential cash flow from production companies, but it is still significant.

Serica Energy is expected to have more than £500 million in cash at the end of 2022, which is nearly two-thirds of the market capitalisation. Dividends are being paid and the cash pile is still set to increase as capex levels decline. Of course, this is based on oil prices staying at around current levels.

i3 Energy pays monthly dividends, providing a forecast yield of more than 6%, and should become cash positive next year even after another £50 million of capital investment.

Interest in Angus Energy has been prompted by progress at the Saltfleetby gas field in Lincolnshire. News of flow rates in the late summer led to a significant increase in trading of the shares. This has made it one of the top three share price performers on AIM during 2022.

The other oil and gas company 88 Energy Ltd (LSE:88E), one of the top 20 share price performers, combines exploration in Alaska – some of the licences are near to Pantheon Resource - with producing assets in Texas. The Alaska licences are near to existing production and/or infrastructure.

The cash from the Texas production and money raised in August will help to finance the Alaska exploration. Things have not gone totally to plan and there was a $67.6 million write-down of the Merlin 1 and Merlin 2 wells in Alaska. This shows that exploration is a costly business.

Mining for profits

As well as Eurasia Mining, there are three other mining companies in the top 20. Greatland Gold (LSE:GGP) shares are not traded as much as they were in 2020 when the share price was soaring, but it is still a favourite among investors. Greatland Gold has secured the finance it requires for its 30% share of the development costs of the Havieron gold copper project in Australia. A feasibility study is in progress.

Premier African Minerals Ltd (LSE:PREM), which is one of the top 10 share price gainers on AIM this year, and Vast Resources (VAST) are more speculative. Vast is trading at around its all-time low.

A health check for this sector

There are three healthcare companies in the list, and all have significant cash outflows. Avacta Group (LSE:AVCT) is the sixth most-bought company. Management plans to make acquisitions to bulk up the diagnostics business, while continuing to develop the early stage affimer proteins operations. Acquiring Launch Diagnostics provides a distribution network. Avacta is estimated to have £33 million left after the acquisition. That should cover cash outflows and provide some cash for further acquisitions. That does not preclude further cash calls.

Molecular diagnostics company Genedrive (LSE:GDR) started the year positively, but the share price has been declining since the spring. Revenues fell last year, and the cash outflow was £4.59 million. Management admits that more cash will need to be raised in the first half of 2023. That will hold down the share price in the short-term.

Synairgen (LSE:SNG) shares have been falling all year with a particularly sharp dive after a trial of SNG001 as a Covid treatment failed. Another trial produced results that were not statistically significant, although it has been shown to be safe. Spending is being reduced and there should be enough cash to get Synairgen to the end of 2023 but, again, more cash will eventually be required. The share price has lost nearly all its gains since the beginning of 2020.

Andrew Hore is a freelance contributor and not a direct employee of interactive investor.

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