Puma Alpha VCT

New: “Meet the manager” video – watch below

Puma Alpha VCT plc is the fourteenth VCT from Puma Investments. Together, the Puma VCTs have raised £260 million since the first launched, in April 2005.

Puma Alpha VCT launched in 2019. Since then, it has raised £12.3 million in its first two fundraising offers and invested £8.0 million across eight companies (November 2021). The VCT has net assets of £14.7 million (August 2021).

The investment portfolio includes a range of companies, from cycling apparel brand Le Col to Dymag, a carbon fibre wheel manufacturer, and MyKindaCrowd, a human resources technology provider. 

The VCT is now looking to raise up to £15 million, with an overallotment facility of £5 million.

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.

Read important documents and then apply

Highlights

  • Targets an average dividend of 5p per annum from April 2023 (not guaranteed)
  • 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 the 2022/23 tax year
  • Minimum investment £5,000; you can apply online

The manager

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 £250 million into 73 qualifying companies, and achieved 34 full exits – please note, past performance is not a guide to the future. The investment team currently manages a portfolio of 23 investee companies across eight sectors, accounting for £104 million of invested capital.

The Puma Private Equity team is headed up by Rupert West, who has 14 years’ investment experience. Rupert is responsible for sourcing and leading investments across Puma’s EIS and VCT offers. Rupert is supported by five investment professionals (one investment director and four investment managers), all of whom joined Puma Investments between 2017 and 2019. The team is supported by a team assistant and the wider support services from Puma Investments, which includes in-house legal counsel and its senior management team.

Meet the manager: watch our video interview with Rupert West

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 average annual revenue of companies receiving a first-time qualifying investment from the company in 2020 was approximately £3.5 million. The investment will primarily be in the form of ordinary equity and loan notes. 

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 believes it 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 2020 calendar year, the Puma Investments private equity team analysed 450 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. 

Exit track record

The VCT launched in 2019 and continues to build its investment portfolio. The VCT is yet to achieve an exit. The Puma investment team has experience of generating exits, having exited 34 of the 73 qualifying investee companies it backed since its inception in April 2005. Please note, the previous VCT funds were limited life and thus applied a different investment strategy to that of 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

Puma Alpha VCT launched in 2019 and has since raised £12.3 million in its first two fundraising offers. The latest audited accounts as at 28 February 2021 show net assets of £10.0 million with £8.0 million invested across seven investee companies. The VCT has since invested a further £2.1 million into three existing investee companies and one new. 

Covid-19 impact 

Puma Private Equity has been supporting portfolio companies through the pandemic.

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 

Everpress – Puma Alpha VCTEverpress – recent investment

Everpress is an online platform that enables creatives, illustrators, and artists to design and sell t-shirts and other clothing. Everpress provides a full-service solution where creators can upload their designs, create social media campaigns and launch to a global audience. Everpress then manages the payments, production, fulfilment, and customer service. The service targets artists, musicians, bands and charities requiring an easy and efficient way to create and distribute merchandise. 

The business appears to be growing strongly, with revenues reported to have grown at an average of 70% p.a. since 2017. The business has increased its headcount from five employees in 2016 to over 40 in November 2021. 

Puma invested £3 million into the business in August 2021 as part of a £4 million funding round alongside existing investors.

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 ecommerce. 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 across its VCT and EIS funds. Puma Alpha VCT first invested in the business in January 2020 and has since provided follow-on funding. The investment has seen a sizeable markup in its valuation and is now valued at £1.5 million compared with an investment cost of £719k: note past performance is not a guide to the future.

Performance and dividends

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

This is a relatively new VCT, so the performance track record is still limited – see below.

NAV and cumulative dividends per share over five years (p)

Source: Morningstar. Past performance is no guide to the future. Dividends are variable and not guaranteed. The bar chart shows net asset value and cumulative dividends per share for the period 31 Dec 2016 to 31 Mar 2022.

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.

To retain the tax benefits, VCTs should be held for at least five years. If you sell VCT shares and reinvest in new shares of the same VCT (including any mergers) within six months, tax relief can be restricted. 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.

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, offer price and share allotment calculation methodology.

Please note, capacity – for the offer or any early bird savings – can be reached early, and we may not be notified of this by the VCT in real time.

Full initial charge 3%
Early bird discount
Wealth Club initial saving 1%
Existing shareholder discount 1%
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (new investors) 2%
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (existing shareholders) 1%
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

  • Deadline for 2022/23 allotment: 31 May 2022 (noon for cleared funds and applications)

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. 

Discount history

VCT shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange. Similar to investment trusts, the share price can fluctuate and can be different from the VCT’s net asset value (NAV), i.e. the value of the VCT’s underlying investments. The difference between the share price of a VCT and its net asset value per share is called a discount (or premium).

Investors should note the VCT has less than a five-year track record. Trading of the VCTs shares will be immaterial and any consideration of the share price movements in relation to the net asset value per share will be inconclusive. The discount history chart will be published once the VCT has a five-year track record.

Investors looking to sell their VCT shares may get a better price using the VCT’s share buyback facility, once available, although this is not guaranteed.

Annual rebate when you invest through Wealth Club

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 a percentage (see table above) 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 disruption caused by the pandemic, there could be advantages in holding a large proportion of assets in cash, without an established portfolio to support.

Of the eight investments made to date, Le Col, the premium cycling brand and Tictrac, a personalised health and wellness platform, appear to be performing strongly and to be well placed to benefit from any lasting changes to consumer and business spending habits, although this is not guaranteed.

Whilst the VCT is still small, it benefits from the larger resources of the wider Puma Investment business. Puma Investments operates several 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 larger funding rounds. For investors with an established VCT portfolio, this could make a good diversifier.

Read important documents and then 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 2023
Initial charge
3%
Initial saving via Wealth Club
1% (2% for existing shareholders)
Net initial charge
2% (1% existing shareholders)
Annual rebate
0.10%
Funds raised / sought
£5.5 million / £15.0 million
Deadline
31 May 2022 (noon) for 2022/23 allotment
Last updated: 15 November 2021

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