We’re already at quarter-time in 2018 — and a number of small caps have doubled and tripled returns for their shareholders in the first three months.

Vanadium emerged as the hot theme for the March quarter — but other “traditional” battery metal stocks also did well.

China exports was also a key theme — especially distributors of infant milk.

The year has so far given us ten three-baggers — including one six-bagger, King River Copper (ASX:KRC).

GOING UP

Vanadium play King River Copper is up 550 per cent for the year — making it the best performing small cap so far in calendar 2018.

The hugely popular stock is largely riding on its potential for vanadium which Stockhead columnist Tim Treadgold covered in detail a few weeks back.

Queried by the ASX earlier this month, King River took the opportunity to remind investors it was achieving 99.48 per cent pure Vanadium, 99.5 per cent pure Titanium and a new resource of 27.2 million tonnes of Fluorspar.

“An initial concept/scoping study should be available early in April.”

King River Copper (ASX:KRC) was the best performing small cap in the March quarter.
King River Copper (ASX:KRC) was the best performing small cap in the March quarter.

Another Vanadium newcomer, Tando Resources (ASX:TNO), is up 196 per cent for the year after getting its hands on a high-grade project estimated to host a resource three times bigger than similar projects.

Investors have piled into the stock, recently pushing its shares to an all-time high of 87.5c — more than four times their issue price of 20c in November. (Read our special report here).

The shares were today trading at 80c — more than triple the price they started at after Christmas.

Vanadium is one of the hottest resources sectors at the moment. Its price has rocketed 550 per cent in the past three years driven by its role in making powerful batteries.

The small number of projects and players in the vanadium space and the projected substantial demand are driving interest.

Infant formula and dairy continue to do well for China-focused ASX-listed exporters.

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Infant milk exporter Jatenergy (ASX:JAT) has had huge quarter — jumping 271 per cent since January.

Shares in the energy-generator-turned-China-exporter have rocketed since December when it started delivering milk powder to China.

This week JAT signed a two-year deal with China’s Jiangsu Jbingo International to distribute its products — including its Golden Koala range of milk powders.

Another China exporter, eCargo (ASX:ECG) brought big returns to shareholders after announcing in January it would buy 45 per cent of Aussie online retailer Jessica’s Suitcase.

The store was founded by Jessica Rudd (daughter of former prime minister Kevin Rudd) who has joined the eCargo board.

Jessica’s Suitcase sells Australian brands such as Penfolds, skincare brand Sukin and fellow ASX-listed goat milk formula maker Bubs (ASX:BUB) through Alibaba’s popular Chinese Tmall e-commerce site.

Shares in eCargo are up 200 per cent for the year.

Mobile video gamer maker Animoca (ASX:AB1) has had its ups and downs in recent times — but it’s been mostly up so far this year. The stock has tripled in price since the start of January.

Animoca is rising on the back of the transformation of phones into gaming devices — and a broadening of gaming content from shoot-em-ups to “casual games” with universal appeal.

Animoca’s revenue fell last year as it cut costs (including reducing staff from 110 to 70) and offloaded non-core assets — including 318 games sold to fellow ASX-listed gamer iCandy (ASX:ICI).

But investors have been impressed by Animoca’s efforts to streamline its library and focus on a few key game franchises such as Crazy Kings and Crazy Defense Heroes.

The stock went on a huge run after Crazy Defense Heroes — a tower defence and card-collecting mobile game — was downloaded 260,000 times in its first week, generating $202,000.

BidEnergy (ASX:BID) — which supplies technology to help businesses save on power costs — has been soaring since signing up a former telco exec as boss and signing a major deal with Singtel Optus.

BidEnergy this week signed a three-year deal with Optus worth about $250,000 per year.

The shares jumped as much as 42 per cent after the news — and have tripled for the year-to-date.

The Optus contract plus several smaller deals with outfits including Berkshire Hathaway has lifted BidEnergy’s annual subscription revenue from $1.8 million to almost $2.2 million in the last three months.

Taruga Gold (ASX:TAR) initially quadrupled after announcing its acquisition of high-grade copper and cobalt projects in the Congo in early March.

Its shares are up 180 per cent for the year.

Taruga will acquire a 60 per cent interest in Mwilu and Kamilobe high-grade cobalt projects, with grades of up to 13 per cent cobalt already reported from channel sampling.

Taruga also has secured first right of refusal on other high-grade cobalt projects held by the government and a local consortium. To fund it all, Taruga is raising $1.35 million at 10c a share.

Battery metal stocks continue to be in high demand based on continuing news of growing demand for electric cars.

Lithium and cobalt prices may come under pressure in the short-term, but Macquarie Bank says they will be top price performers over a five-year horizon.

Here are the best-performing ASX small caps for the March 2018 quarter. Scroll for full list.

ASX Code Name 3-month price change (Jan-Mar) Price Mar 29 (11am AEDT) Price Jan 2, 2018 Market Cap ($)
KRC KING RIVER COPPER 5.5 0.13 0.02 134.63M
IMU IMUGENE 3 0.04 0.01 97.06M
JAT JATENERGY 2.71428571429 0.26 0.07 104.84M
PDN PALADIN ENERGY 2.6 0.18 0.05 295.47M
TNO TANDO RESOURCES 2 0.75 0.25 26.28M
TGN TUNGSTEN MINING 2 0.39 0.13 220.29M
AB1 ANIMOCA BRANDS CORP 2 0.06 0.02 30.76M
BID BIDENERGY 2 0.03 0.01 19.26M
ECG ECARGO HOLDINGS 2 0.21 0.07 132.28M
IAM INTIGER GROUP 2 0.03 0.01 42.71M
IGE INTEGRATED GREEN ENERGY SOLU 1.84615384615 0.37 0.13 124.60M
TAR TARUGA GOLD 1.8 0.28 0.1 32.15M
OLV OTHERLEVELS HOLDINGS LIMITED 1.66666666667 0.08 0.03 16.85M
SFH SPECIALTY FASHION GROUP 1.57142857143 0.36 0.14 68.24M
HHM HAMPTON HILL MINING NL 1.5 0.05 0.02 14.45M
HXG HEXAGON RESOURCES 1.5 0.25 0.1 61.54M
FTZ FERTOZ 1.375 0.19 0.08 17.49M
CYP CYNATA THERAPEUTICS 1.36666666667 1.42 0.6 131.01M
IIL INNATE IMMUNOTHERAPEUTICS LT 1.33333333333 0.07 0.03 16.02M
GWR GWR GROUP 1.25 0.18 0.08 45.45M

 

GOING DOWN

We didn’t regard GetSwift (ASX:GSW) as a small cap at the start of the year — but it is now, having fallen from a market cap of $700 million to around $65 million after a series of challenges.

GetSwift has lost 86 per cent of its value this year to trade at about 50c.

This week the beleaguered logistics tech company was served with a second class action.

Earlier this year GetSwift  was caught in a media sting over allegations about its market disclosures. It allegedly failed to update the market twice when it lost material contracts and prematurely announced another.

The second class action has been filed by law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth Lawyers on behalf of Shaun McTaggart in the Federal Court.

Anson Resources (ASX:ASN) is down about 70 per cent for the year after the explorer reported lower-than-expected lithium levels at its flagship project in Utah’s Paradox Basin.

More than 85 million shares changed hands after the announcement — about 23 per cent of its shares.

“Lithium concentrations are well below historical assay (test) results in other parts of the Paradox Basin,” Anson told investors at the time.

“The reasons for the low lithium results are still being determined.”

Chocolate maker Yowie (ASX:YOW) and Donut King and Gloria Jeans owner Retail Food Group (RFG) have both had testing starts to the year.

Yowie shares have lost 57 per cent on high competition in the US and Retail Food Group is down 60 per cent as it closes hundreds of stores.

Here are the worst-performing ASX small caps for the March 2018 quarter. Scroll for full list.

ASX Code Name 3-month price change (Jan-Mar) Price Mar 29 (11am AEDT) Price Jan 2, 2018 Market Cap ($)
AU8 AUMAKE INTERNATIONAL -0.560606060606 0.29 0.66 81.11M
TMP TECH MPIRE -0.571428571429 0.09 0.21 7.81M
YOW YOWIE GROUP -0.571428571429 0.09 0.21 20.37M
RFG RETAIL FOOD GROUP -0.59756097561 0.99 2.46 187.31M
ELS ELSIGHT -0.6 0.6 1.5 55.62M
REV REAL ESTATE INVESTAR GROUP -0.6 0.02 0.05 2.68M
TBH TOPBETTA -0.625 0.15 0.4 23.55M
CSK CROWDSPARK -0.631578947368 0.07 0.19 2.67M
MSE METALSEARCH -0.666666666667 0.01 0.03 3.19M
PNN PEPINNINI LITHIUM -0.666666666667 0.03 0.09 15.81M
SMI SANTANA MINERALS -0.666666666667 0.01 0.03 4.42M
ASN ANSON RESOURCES -0.705882352941 0.05 0.17 22.58M
OOK OOKAMI -0.714285714286 0.04 0.14 12.78M
FGF FIRST GROWTH FUNDS -0.75 0.01 0.04 19.45M
RFN REFFIND -0.75 0.01 0.04 7.22M
ORM ORION METALS -0.8 0.02 0.1 7.70M
RDN RAIDEN RESOURCES -0.8 0.03 0.15 10.67M
PG1 PEARL GLOBAL -0.821428571429 0.3 1.68 41.17M
WML WOOMERA MINING -0.86 0.14 1 16.91M
GSW GETSWIFT -0.863387978142 0.5 3.66 93.32M