Four ASX small caps, one billion-dollar roundtable: Welcome to Stockhead’s own ‘Dragon’s Den’
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I’m at Coogee and it’s another horrible Sydney winter’s day:
Kidding. This is surely the most beautiful place to be in Australia right now. The sun is shining, there’s a crowd watching half an NRL team brave the surf, and I’m about to head into one of Sydney’s finest diners.
It’s already obvious it’s going to be a high performance kind of day.
Mimi’s. Named after its owner Justin Hemmes’ mum, so clearly it knows how to soak up pressure.
And you also know it’s going to hurt your wallet because there are more staff than diners – and there are a lot of diners.
Well, not my wallet. Which is good because we’re not just eating at Mimi’s; we’re eating in a private room at Mimi’s.
The occasion is the first in a series of Stockhead events that put our clients in front of a select group of top portfolio managers and private investors, and basically, pitch. Because we want to make it the best it can be for all involved, we’ve partnered up with investor relations specialists Caldera House to pull the A-list.
Caldera delivers. Tribeca, Ausbil, Terra – there’s comfortably more than billion dollars at the table, and I have no idea where to sit.
Instantly, I know this is not my Happy Place. I am Tom Hanks in the boardroom at FAO Schwarz.
I’m terrified I’ll be mistakenly identified as someone who knows how to invest half a billion dollars responsibly, then asked for my opinion.
A friendly looking guy draws the short card and gets a seat next to me (that’s the right-hand side of his table networking gone).
Ha, “networking”. There’s a lot of handshaking and it’s obvious none of it is introductory. Networking is for the kind of people who still need LinkedIn.
This is not a restaurant review. But if you’re interested in such things, I ask my new buddy if he gets a lot of these kind of lunches offered.
“All the time,” he says, “but we don’t generally get out for them.”
What’s different about this one?
“It’s Mimi’s,” he says with a shrug. And that’s probably all you need to know about Mimi’s.
We have four presentations from Stockhead clients to get through; they get 10 minutes each. I am actually in a real-life version of Shark Tank.
The first round of drinks is in. The red is universally taken and admired, but I opt for a beer. Not because I’m not into red, just beer gets me in less say-something-stupid trouble.
That restraint doesn’t help me when the conversation turns to how quickly car prices are rising.
I’m into cars, so this could be my in, but they’re starting with Mustang Eleanors and all I’ve got to offer is how even my 2001 Hilux is worth more now than when I bought it eight years ago.
They smile and nod but I’m pretty sure I’ve just been texted around the table. This is, as they say, above my pay grade. By some levels of magnitude.
Sure, I’m in charge of a news outlet that deals almost exclusively in, well, deals. I get my role in that part of it. Quite competently, I should hope.
But in my world, you don’t use your mobile at the table — and especially not at the table when someone’s talking.
Here, it’s expected. It’s business. All of it is business – the person presenting, the wine that costs more per glass than I’ve ever paid for a bottle, the private room, even the “guess the gold price right now” game and banter it creates.
It’s 100 per cent, top to bottom, business. And presenting right now…
Latitude Consolidated (ASX:LCD): CEO Tim Davidson opens with how the $60m gold explorer is plotting the best path to production for its flagship Murchison Gold project. After two years of negotiating, it snapped up the high-grade Andy Well and Gnaweeda gold projects off Silver Lake Resources for $8 million in December.
In May, happy days – LCD announced it had grown that resource from 776,000 ounces to more than 1.1 million oz, just by reassessing how to model it. This thing is looking more and more like the deal of a lifetime with every announcement.
It’s a good start; and for someone who looks young enough to be considering what to do in their gap year, Tim’s clearly right at home here. I’m surprised by how engaged the group is and how genuinely probing their questions are.
We’ve decided to get the presentations away in pairs. Next up…
archTIS (ASX:AR9): MD Daniel Lai gets the hospital pass of making cybersecurity enticing. But it’s a lot easier to get the room’s attention when you’ve pulled the quantity and quality of customers archTIS has this year alone.
Microsoft? Check. Thales? Check. Australian Department of Defence? Check.
US Department of Defence? You see where this is going.
That’s just the past six months for the Canberra-based team, and a lot of it is due to what’s turning out to be a very lucrative decision in December to acquire a global information protection system; Nucleus Cyber.
As Daniel talks, we get the oysters and a plate of sticks.
The oysters are popular (I avoid them, again, not because I’m not an oyster guy, but because I don’t eat messy in new company). The sticks are delicious.
What I particularly like, though, is the fact the food is in the centre of the table, and all the passing and offering and notably good manners gives everything a Waltons kind of feel. A Crazy Rich Waltons kind of feel.
This is all very… genial.
There are some curly questions for Daniel after his moment, mostly regarding how archTIS doesn’t get stampeded by the Symantecs of the world when they decide to do so.
Daniel’s about as stressed by this as the wagyu that’s just been floated into the centre of the table. Cybersecurity’s not for the easily unnerved.
We break for the mains and this starving Tasmanian rube opts for the meat and the fish tyvm:
It’s melt in your mouth, but in my mind I’m already fixing it for executive chef Jordan Toft:
You’re welcome, Tofty.
Next to face the
sharks room is Scott Brown. He’s MD of Pure Hydrogen Corp (ASX:PH2) and what future-focused investor presentation would be complete in 2021 without a hydrogen player?
Late last year, Scott was MD of CSG company Real Energy as it sent notice to the ASX of a new subsidiary, Pure Hydrogen. “Pure Hydrogen”, it said, would become “the leader in the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technology in Australia”.
On March 1, after a merger with Botswana CSG miner Strata-X, Pure Hydrogen was born. Cue a 50pc share price rise, almost overnight.
PH2 has worked fast since then, presenting at the Australian Energy and Minerals Investor Conference, signing an MOU to turn waste into hydrogen at a Brisbane plant, and rolling out plans for the world’s first CSG-to-hydrogen hub to produce “turquoise” hydrogen from modules that can be housed in shipping containers.
A lot of achievement to pack into 10 minutes. The general consensus – hydrogen’s on the watchlist.
At my end of the table, my new friend had got into a robust discussion with a rare earths guys about whether the latest lithium run could be sustained.
It was more interesting than it sounds. Honestly. (And if you’re wondering, the final declaration was “We’re long now, but we’ll be short before the end of the year. And long again sometime next year.”)
What’s also interesting is, no one in the room is privy to any information that isn’t already publicly available.
I know it isn’t – and not because that kind of thing would be illegal. I know because I’d read it all from ASX announcements and media articles while being a Proper Journalist before attending this gig.
It’s out there for anyone wishing to DYOR. But so too are a couple of hundred other announcements from 2,400-odd listed ASX companies elbowing each other every day trying to catch the eye of people like those gathered in this room.
You can’t read everything. Even Stockhead has its limitations.
And it’s clear these very professional people who make millions by being excellent at seeing opportunities are learning something today.
The answers to a lot of their genuinely probing questions get this kind of response:
And the odd actual cheer. Notably, after Marvel Gold (ASX:MVL) MD Phil Hoskins read the room and promised to skol his beer any time he couldn’t resist saying the words “10-bagger”.
Marvel’s had a very solid run of hits that helped its Tabakorole resource in Mali continue to grow through 2021, but while the crowd at Mimi’s came for the gold, they stayed for the graphite.
In May, Marvel announced it would spin out its Chilalo Graphite Project into a wholly owned subsidiary — Evolution Energy Minerals.
Obviously that meant I was immediately caught in the middle of a new robust discussion about the merits of flake versus spherical graphite.
Hoskins’ effusiveness over the project earned him three skols. And as he was winding up, I realised it was good thing, in this place, when everybody picks up their phones while you’re speaking.
And then, it’s over. For me, anyway. This lot will now get properly stuck into the claret, but more importantly, start analysing what they just saw the way they know best – in conversation with like-minded, really, really wealthy people.
(I learn later that I just missed out on eating caviar literally spooned onto the back of my hand. And the sticks were chickpea panisse, with wild garlic and cavolo nero. Maybe? I honestly have no idea.)
The reality is, this how we make a lot of big things happen in our part of the world.
Yes, having access to wealth most people can only dream of opens more doors to potentially increasing that wealth. That’s never been more obvious to me than today.
But make no mistake, their wealth is accessible. It may be that if they’re willing to part with some of it, it’s only because they firmly believe parting with it will make them even wealthier. Many people get a little put out by that notion.
But what many of those same people aren’t so willing to accept is that these investors, with their exclusive access to creating more wealth, are in turn creating more wealth for other people.
Small caps such as the four presenting at Mimi’s on that glorious Sydney afternoon can go a long way with the acceleration those funds can provide.
You can undertake all the PFSes and clinical trials and market research. But arguably the ultimate test – the one that can give you the ultimate slingshot – is putting your hard work on the table in front of someone with a track record of making winning investments, and having them invest in your company.
“Exposure,” archTIS’s Daniel Lai tells me afterwards, “is always critical in the story of any small cap.”
They don’t call it Dragon’s Den for nothing. Dragons are really, really good at finding gold. Survive a visit to their lair, and you leave with some of it.
And that gold is free now to potentially flow all the way down from the CEO to the geologist to the dumpy driver to the kid bringing the hot roast rolls.
From the cool of Mimi’s, to a sun and sandblasted square of red dirt a couple of thousand kays and two weeks’ shift-work away from the family, now feeling it could be a good Christmas this year.
This is business. I guess I could get to like it.
At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Marvel Gold, Pure Hydrogen, archTIS and Latitude Consolidated are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.