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Like a turd that won’t flush, water stocks are hanging on despite investor disdain

"He's like a turd that won't flush," Dennis Hopper once said about his rival for oil in Waterworld. Are water stocks turds? Pic: Waterworld/Universal Pictures

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The ASX could be the one place where water and oil go together: neither sector is looked on especially favourably by Australian investors.

However, in the water world some companies are kicking goals, at least based on their accounts.

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Small decentralised water treatment company De.Mem (ASX:DEM) more than tripled its full year revenue in 2018, the year the full impact of a new Australian water business made itself felt.

Revenue jumped from $2.9m in 2017 to $10.5m last year almost entirely on the back of the wastewater Akwa-Worx purchase in September 2017, which gave De.Mem an instant money-making arm while it commercialises a water membrane tech.

The company upgraded its revenue forecast in May last year from $8-10m to $10-12m.

In today’s accounts it slashed the full year loss from $6.3m to $2m.

De.Mem’s Australian business provides water treatment plants to government and mining customers such as Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO).

The other arm is a high tech membrane used at the end of water treatment, where liquid is passed through a membrane which allows only water molecules to pass through. The company is looking at using it in both waste food and the food sector.

Yet investors remain unconvinced. Shares in the company were flat on Monday morning at 14c and have never regained the early heights that reached 49c soon after listing in April 2017.

De.Mem shares since listing in 2017.

The six board directors and managers paid themselves a miniature $507,428 in 2018 and the company paid its corporate advisor, part owned by director Stuart Carmichael, $103,203 in fees.

CEO Andreas Gideon explains the share price movement as being down to a very tight register and a cap raise.

“While the major shareholders ie the Singapore based VC fund (New Asia Investments) haven’t sold a single share, there has been some pressure on the stock price which seems to have balanced somewhat only since a few months back at the end of calendar 2018,” he told Stockhead. “The recent drop from around 18c to 14c certainly comes along with the recent rights issue at 13.5 cents.”

“It is certainly disappointing to see the share price that low. Nevertheless, we are relaxed about this and believe the share will recover soon as we’ve built a strong business with solid position and growth prospects starting in the Australian market.”

In other water news:

Phoslock (ASX:PET), the company that made a huge splash a year ago when it announced a maiden profit thanks to its Chinese strategy, has not managed to continue that run.

Phoslock’s tech permanently binds excess phosphate in water courses to sediments and water particles in order to remediate impaired lakes, rivers, canals and drinking water reservoirs. It made a half-year loss in the six months to December 31 of $432,555 compared to a $659,054 profit in the same period in 2017. Revenue rose to $9m, but so did director and admin fees.

Phoslock stock was flat at 38c, bang on average where it’s sat for the last year.
Fluence (ASX:FLC), a company more comparable to De.Mem, also more than tripled its full year revenue in 2018 to $101m.

But as it said last week it also more than tripled its full year loss, from $24m in 2017 to $77m in 2018, as it booked a massive writedown on goodwill — the accounting term that puts a dollar figure on reputation — over the Israeli, Italian and ‘other’ businesses by $56m.

Fluence shares were up near annual highs at 53c, but are still well below the near-$1 highs reached before local business Emefcy merged with the American RWL.

Categories: Mining

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