Puma Alpha VCT

The Puma Alpha VCT plc is the fourteenth VCT from Puma Investments. The VCT launched in 2019 and raised £5.8 million in its first fundraising offer, which closed in May 2020. Since then, it has started to deploy capital, investing £1.8 million across three companies to date (June 2020).

As can be expected, the VCT has a large proportion of its net assets in cash and does not have a large existing portfolio to support. Given the impact of Covid-19, this might be advantageous when considering and making future investments. 

The VCT is now looking to raise up to £30 million (£20 million plus £10 million overallotment) in the 2020/21 offer. 

Important: The information on this website is for experienced investors. It is not advice nor a research or personal recommendation to invest. If you’re unsure, please seek advice. Investments are for the long term. They are high risk and illiquid and can fall as well as rise in value, so you could get back less than you invest.

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Highlights

  • Targets an average dividend of 5p per annum from April 2023 (not guaranteed)
  • Puma’s fourteenth VCT, now with an evergreen focus 
  • Focus on scale-up opportunities: aims to invest in established, income-yielding growth capital companies 
  • New VCT, launched in 2019, with no legacy portfolio to manage
  • Managed by an experienced team within Puma’s private equity arm
  • 0.10% annual rebate for three years through Wealth Club
  • Available for this tax year (2020/21) and next tax year (2021/22)
  • Minimum investment £5,000, you can apply online

The manager

The Puma Alpha VCT is managed by the private equity arm of Puma Investments. The lead manager is Rupert West, an experienced investment professional.

Puma has a 24-year track record of investing in small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK through its VCT and EIS products since 2005. Together, the Puma VCTs, Puma EIS and Puma Alpha EIS have invested more than £235 million into 65 qualifying companies, with 33 full exits – please note, past performance is not a guide to the future.

So, whilst this is a relatively new VCT, it is run by an experienced VCT manager; there have now been 14 Puma VCTs. Previous Puma VCTs were limited life but this latest one is evergreen.

Investment strategy

The VCT seeks scale-up opportunities, rather than startups: well managed, established, unquoted companies expected to generate revenue (£3 million to £15 million a year) with limited external debt. The investment will primarily be in the form of ordinary equity and loan notes.

The Puma Alpha VCT has a similar investment mandate to the Puma Alpha EIS (launched in 2017) and will co-invest in many of the deals. This should help the manager deploy capital swiftly and access opportunities otherwise out of reach for a new VCT. 

Puma has a strong pipeline of new deals, thanks to the difficulties SMEs continue to face raising money from traditional banks, alongside Puma’s established network of deal introducers. In the 2019 calendar year, the Puma Investments private equity team analysed 300 potential deals.

Pending investment, the manager may invest funds in a range of non-qualifying investments, such as cash, money market funds and listed debt and listed equities. 

The VCT has only recently started making its first investments. The VCT is likely to make further investments in companies similar to those made by previous Puma VCTs and the Puma Alpha EIS.

Exit track record

The VCT launched in 2019 and has only just started building a portfolio, so it hasn’t yet achieved any exits. The manager has, however, invested over £235 million into 65 companies that were qualifying at the time of the investment across its previous VCTs as well as Puma EIS and Puma Alpha EIS, and fully exited 33 of these. Please note, those funds applied a different investment strategy to that of the Puma Alpha VCT. 

Sweat Union Limited – example of failure

As is to be expected with early-stage investments, not all succeed. One example is Sweat Union, a budget gym operator, in which Puma invested £3.75 million in November 2017. Sweat Union set out to offer dedicated spinning and aerobics studios pitched at a slight price premium to budget rivals. It also planned to open sites in Debenhams department stores.

Trading conditions proved more challenging than envisaged in the business plan. Sweat Union’s ambitious roll-out strategy coincided with the beginning of a steep decline in consumer confidence and turmoil on the high street, plus difficulties at Debenhams. Ultimately the company could not sustain the level of cash losses so Sweat Union entered creditors’ voluntary liquidation. The Puma team does not expect to make any recovery from the liquidation.

Current portfolio overview

The Puma Alpha VCT raised £5.8 million in its first share offer, which closed in May 2020. The latest audited figures as at 29 Feb 2020 show net assets of £3.9 million (c. £1.88 million was raised after February 2020).

In the financial year to February 2020, the VCT invested £925k in two qualifying companies. Since then, it has made one new and one follow-on investment, investing a further £869k. 

Covid-19 impact 

Puma Private Equity is supporting portfolio companies through the impact of Covid-19.

Puma Private Equity is normally in close contact with its portfolio companies. From the onset of Covid-19, the team significantly increased the level of interaction, changed its portfolio review cycle from monthly to weekly and worked with portfolio companies to prepare to capitalise on the opportunities for growth that may arise. 

Examples of portfolio companies 

Le Col – Puma Alpha VCTLe Col Holdings Limited 

Le Col is a premium cycling apparel brand founded by former professional cyclist, Yanto Barker. The brand aims to bring professional-level kit to the amateur market, whilst still acknowledging technical sportswear’s increasingly fashion-led desirability. The business manufactures its clothing in its own factory in Italy.

Revenues have continued to grow strongly through 2020, particularly in e-commerce. This has been the brand’s largest sales channel during the pandemic, as cycling was a permitted form of exercise. The business has sponsored Team Bahrain McLaren, which is helping expand the brand internationally. Le Col has partnerships with Bradley Wiggins and the online social fitness network Strava. Both have aided revenue growth.

Puma has invested a total of £4.85 million, of which £988k through the VCT (including a follow on investment of £269k in April 2020). The VCT’s investment has since seen a modest markup in valuation: note past performance is not a guide to the future.

Dymag – Puma Alpha VCTDymag Group Limited

British designer and manufacturer Dymag was the first company in the world to manufacture high-end, lightweight carbon-fibre wheels for performance cars and motorbikes, certified for both road and racing use. The company claims its wheels are 40% lighter than a standard aluminium alloy wheel of the same size. 

Immediately pre-Covid-19, the global market for carbon automotive wheels appeared very strong, with several major production programmes announced. Dymag has continued to operate throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. In line with the rest of the automotive sector, its revenue levels have been impacted. Puma is working with the management team to establish a strategy for the new trading environment and believes the technological and financial benefits of carbon wheel technology remain compelling.

Puma has invested a total of £4.8 million, of which £475k through the VCT. 

Tictrac – Puma Alpha VCTTictrac Limited

Tictrac is a personalised health and wellness platform which collates day-to-day data from consumers through wearable fitness trackers to give people targeted information to help improve their health. The Company collaborates with experts and centres of expertise in health, behavioural change and data science. Its customers include some of the world’s biggest healthcare providers and insurers, including Aviva, Allianz and Prudential.

With a renewed emphasis on the need for employers to engage with the health and wellbeing of their employees during lockdown, Tictrac chose to make its platform available on a free trial basis to UK employers during the crisis. This has resulted in a strong pipeline of potential new clients for the business. 

Puma has invested a total of £5 million, of which £600k through the VCT (in March 2020). 

Performance and dividends

There is a target dividend of 5p per share, payable from April 2023, not guaranteed. 

This is a new VCT so performance is not yet available. 

Risks: important

This, like all investments available through Wealth Club, is only for experienced investors happy to make their own investment decisions without advice. 

VCTs are high-risk so should only form part of a balanced portfolio and you should not invest money you cannot afford to lose. They also tend to be illiquid and hard to sell and value. Before you invest, please carefully read the Risks and Commitments and the offer documents to ensure you fully understand the risks. 

Tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances.

VCTs can now only invest new money in growth capital deals. Management buyouts, replacement capital deals and investments in mature companies are no longer permitted. This results in considerably higher risks.

The risks and investment objectives are different with each VCT, but with a significant proportion of the combined portfolios invested in property-owning businesses, investors are likely to be exposed to commercial property.

Charges and savings

A summary of the main charges and savings is shown below. The net initial charge shown includes the Wealth Club saving and any early bird discount. The investment may have additional charges and expenses: please see the provider documents including the Key Information Document for more details.

Full initial charge 3%
Early bird discount 2%
Wealth Club initial saving 1%
Existing shareholder discount
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (new investors) 0%
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (existing shareholders) 0%
Annual management charge 2%
Annual administration charge 0.35%
Performance fee 20%
Annual rebate from Wealth Club (for three years) 0.10%

More detail on the charges

Deadlines

  • Apply by 18 December 2020 to receive a 2% early bird discount
  • The deadline for receipt of applications for final allotment in the 2020/2021 offer is 3:00 pm on 1 April 2021.
  • The deadline for receipt of applications for final allotment in the 2021/2022 offer is 3:00 pm on 1 June 2021.

Share buybacks

The VCT may operate a buyback policy at a 5% discount to the shares’ net asset value (after five years from the investment). This is not guaranteed – please see the offer documents for details.

Dividend Investment Scheme 

There is no dividend re-investment scheme. 

Annual rebate when you invest through Wealth Club

The Puma Alpha VCT includes an annual rebate for Wealth Club investors, payable for the first three years. 

This is a rebate of our renewal commission and should be equivalent to 0.10% of the Net Asset Value of the Offer Shares issued to you when you invest. Terms and conditions apply.

Our view

This new VCT has now started to make its first investments. Unlike established VCTs, investors do not gain exposure to a large existing portfolio. It means there are unlikely to be any dividends in the early years – indeed, the first dividend payment is expected, but not guaranteed, in 2023. That said, following the outbreak of Covid-19, there could be advantages in holding a large proportion of assets in cash, without an established portfolio to support.

This is Puma Investments’ fourteenth VCT. The business has a good track record in its previous 13 VCTs: note past performance is not a guide to the future. Whilst the VCT is still small, it benefits from the larger resources of the wider Puma Investment business. Puma Investments operates a number of similar investment mandates through its EIS service and its previous VCTs. It is expected these mandates will co-invest in many of the same deals. This may allow this young VCT to punch above its weight in terms of attracting deal flow and participating in large funding rounds. For investors with an established VCT portfolio, this could make a good diversifier, giving access to later-stage companies than those typically now targeted by popular VCTs.

Read important documents and apply

Wealth Club aims to make it easier for experienced investors to find information on – and apply for – tax-efficient investments. You should base your investment decision on the provider's documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. This review is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy the investment mentioned. It does not satisfy legal requirements promoting investment research independence and is thus not subject to prohibitions on dealing ahead of its dissemination.

The details

Type
Generalist
Target dividend
5p from Apr 2023
Initial charge
3%
Initial saving via Wealth Club
3%
Net initial charge
0%
Annual rebate
0.10%
Funds raised / sought
£2.3 million / £20.0 million
Deadline
18 Dec 2020 for early bird saving
Last updated: 24 July 2020

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