Eden Gets Growing - (EDEN)
Eden Gets Growing
As ever, investing in Eden Research (EDEN) requires patience. Interim results for the first half of 2016 disappointed the market, and the shares slipped, closing at 11p to 11.75p in a little flurry of selling after rising to 13p.
Perhaps an updated note from house broker Shore Capital did the damage. Headlined ‘A vote of confidence’ and taking encouragement from the £2.2m investment in a 9.9% stake by Sipcam, the note repeated earlier predictions of revenues for 2016 at £1.7m with pre-tax losses of £1.5m, and went on to suggest there would still be a small loss by 2020, though revenues could have risen to £5.7m by then.
While these figures are estimated on a conservative basis, using only contracted deals, they must bring a weary sigh from investors who have believed that Eden’s all natural terpene technology, combined with the slow-release encapsulation method, will eventually command a worthwhile share of the agrochemical and several related markets.
An updated presentation from Eden at http://media.investis.com/E/Edenresearch/company-presentation-october-2017a.pdf helps give a glimpse of the opportunities. Page eight lists Eden’s target markets and their size by 2020 – biopesticides (worth $6.9bn with Eden products to tackle botrytis, powdery and downy mildew, slug and snail treatment and mites and white flies); conventional pesticides ($76.8bn and Eden in co-encapsulated conventional synthetic pesticides and formulation delivery systems); and animal health ($33bn with Eden in companion animal flea and tick products, odour control, and ear, coat and skin care).
Eden simply has to scratch the surface of this stuff to suggest the current £23m market capitalisation is too modest. That explains why many subscribers have been ready to sit and wait while Eden moves towards becoming a real company. It has the patents (over 122 granted and pending), and is starting to hack a way through the regulatory forest, and picking up major name partners to finance and market product along the way. But, by golly, it takes time.
The half-year figures show that, at last, the possibilities are starting to translate into real sales. Revenue was up by £900,000 to just over £1m. Half of that came when Sipcam agreed an option and evaluation deal which would allow it first option on Eden ‘s plant protection products in certain markets. But revenues from 3AEY, Eden’s initial product for tackling botrytis in grapes, must have risen by some £400,000. Part of this was because of a switch which saw Eden producing and selling 3AEY instead of taking a royalty.
Unusual weather conditions – frost, then excessive heat and drought – have impacted sales through the summer, and while 3AEY has been very well received, it is impossible to predict second half sales firmly. Eden, though, accepts that the Shore annual revenue target of £1.7m makes sense.
Looking ahead, regulatory approval for 3AEY in France came late in the season, and Portugal has only just come through. All of the key European grape-growing countries are now in the fold, and there is a steady flow of label extensions, approving use on additional crops.
So there is a growing run of repeatable revenue from sales. And Sipcam option cash – perhaps a larger amount than this year - ought to chip in again in 2018 as Sipcam evaluates and picks up options to sell 3AEY in other areas. It is a global operator with sales approaching £1bn, and is linked to Japanese giant Sumitomo.
Crucially, the Sipcam partnership has eased financial pressures. At the half-year, Eden had cash of £3.66m. That is allowing it to take on more personnel, pursue more regulatory clearances, and generally advance the business. Shore Capital projects that £3.1m cash will remain at the end of the year. There are current trials on five continents, and registration applications are pending in 29 countries.
There could be significant new deals before the end of the year. Meanwhile work continues with US giant Eastman, and a nematicide is on track for launch in 29 countries. The long-awaited and oft-postponed launch of by Bayer of animal health products in the USA is expected in the first quarter of 2018. Even TerpeneTech might launch a head lice product early next year.
None of these new products and markets is built into the cautious broker forecasts, and could generate significant payments and then royalties. So the forecast figures almost certainly understate the potential value of Eden, and the labour and direct expense of pushing through regulatory approvals for Eden’s three key terpenes.
The broker takes a positive view of Eden, saying ‘We continue to believe Eden is well-placed with a growing and diverse product development pipeline in an industry that is seeing structural growth in demand for natural solutions. This is in the context of it getting harder to get product registrations for synthetic conventional pesticides which is a market with an overall value of over $57bn per year. So with higher barriers to entry we believe Eden can drive value creation going forward.’
A new chairman steps in on January 1. Hopefully he will have the experience and contacts to help drive Eden forward. He ought certainly to add credibility. Lykele van der Broek was former chief operating officer of Bayer Crop Science and former head of the animal health care division of Bayer Health Care. He is 60, and while he is aware of it, is not involved in the Eden animal health deal with Bayer. His arrival ought to be encouraging – at Bayer he would have had experience of running the biggest crop protection company in the world.
It all helps add to the possibilities in Eden. It is taking a long, long time to realise the potential of terpenes and encapsulation, but the agro-industry is governed by the seasons, and though it is tempting to think otherwise, big companies do not readily beat a path to small players with bright ideas. It is slog, slog, slog, especially given the heavy regulatory framework governing such areas (though it is hard to forgive the glacial pace at which this often moves).
Eden is staring to deliver product in the real world, but the attraction remains the potential. The vast scope for all-natural pesticides is increasingly recognised, but Eden’s terpenes might do so much more. Even now, with 3AEY for botrytis selling well in the early stages, there are many related applications yet to be exploited and vast areas of the world where no-one has yet picked up the distribution rights.
The theme will be familiar to subscribers Not this year, maybe next year, but give it time and Eden could be a big winner. Who knows? One of the giants might come to understand that, too.
I have a holding in Eden Research.