'Great long-term investment': Expert names small-cap ASX share to buy for cheap

Ask A Fund Manager: Cyan Investment Management's Dean Fergie gives his thoughts on three stocks that have halved in price in recent times.

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Ask A Fund Manager

The Motley Fool chats with the best in the industry so that you can get an insight into how the professionals think. In this edition, Cyan Investment Management portfolio manager Dean Fergie reveals what he would do with three ASX shares that have lost half their value in 2022.

Cut or keep?

The Motley Fool: Now let's talk about three ASX shares that have seen their prices plummet in recent times.

What would you do with Playside Studios Ltd (ASX: PLY), which you've previously discussed with us. How do you feel about it these days? The share price has halved this year.

Dean Fergie: Look, Playside, I think it got pretty hyped up. They did a game called Dumb Ways to Die and released a bunch of NFTs on the back of it. So the characters within the game are called Beans, and they released 2,000 Beans. And they made, within a month, something like $7 or $8 million by selling the NFTs. Now, I don't have to tell anyone that the whole cryptocurrency and NFTs are not the flavour of the month anymore. So I think some of the hype that was in Playside has dissipated. 

However, in the last month they've signed an extended agreement with Facebook and Meta Platforms Inc (NASDAQ: META) to do more gaming development for them. They've got a couple of big games that they're about to release. So, for us, we think it's an A-grade gaming developer on a global stage, which is a small company based in Australia. 

And we think there's clearly been quite a bit of corporate activity in terms of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) buying Activision Blizzard last year. So for us a business like Playside, that's doing its own IP [intellectual property] in terms of gaming but also gaming development for some of the biggest gaming companies around the globe, is a great long-term investment.

MF: And for such a small company, it's profitable, isn't it? That's handy.

DF: That's right. Really, really strong growing revenues, but a nice blend of its own IP in terms of games, but also work for hire for some of the really, really big companies around town. So we think it's a great medium-term story.

MF: Great. So it sounds like you still have your holdings and are happy to hold onto them.

DF: Yeah. What's been really interesting about all of our holdings that have fallen pretty substantially over the last six months is that the news they've released has been, by and large, really, really positive. 

It's not like they've come out with strong earnings downgrades, that they've had debt covenants flow and all these things, haven't lost customers. Across the board, the news flow has been really positive, which has been in stark contrast to the movement in share prices.

MF: The next one is one that I don't think your fund has ever held — a software company called Whispir Ltd (ASX: WSP), which has also halved so far this year.

DF: This was one of these businesses that when it IPOed, we probably thought it was a little bit toppy in terms of its valuation. Maybe we were correct for a while. I think it maybe floated at around $1.50 and then went up to $4, and it's come back to a dollar or so.

This is one of these businesses that has got a really, really strong corporate client base, which is positive, [and] really, really strong growth in revenues. But, unfortunately, it's still running a pretty high cost base. So it still isn't profitable. Even though, from my memory, they said at the IPO they would be profitable in the next year, which they haven't been. And I would say right now, if any business should be cutting costs, it would be right now.

I think it's got a market cap of around $130 million and something like $30 million on its balance sheet. I think this is one of these businesses, it's probably worth investors having a closer look at, because they've got a good commercialised messaging product with Bluetooth clients, a strong balance sheet, growing revenues. They just need to dial back their costs and it could actually be quite a good business.

MF: So next month's results season will be pretty interesting for Whispir, won't it?

DF: Yeah. I think these businesses they've just got to stop burning cash. This is not a market where you can raise money easily, or if you want to raise money, it's going to be expensive because your share prices are so trash. 

So it's certainly one that if they start making the right noises, then I'd consider adding it to my portfolio.

MF: And the third one is Maggie Beer Holdings Ltd (ASX: MBH), which has halved since February. It's another one that you've discussed in the past. I wonder how you feel about it at this moment?

DF: Yeah… we've recently sold it. Their dairy assets, they're trying to sell them, but they haven't sold them yet. I think there's some challenges in terms of getting a decent price for them. 

But Maggie Beer products I think are selling quite well. The Hampers Emporium business, the online business that they bought a couple of years ago, is a good business, but I think it was a real COVID play.

You've seen it across the board with Adore Beauty Group Ltd (ASX: ABY), Temple & Webster Group Ltd (ASX: TPW), Kogan.com Ltd (ASX: KGN), and the like, all these online businesses had a great [few years]. 

As everyone gets back to normal, they're more likely to spend money going on an overseas holiday or interstate rather than sending a hamper to their friends. So I think there's some pressure there. 

Plus, on the cost side, in terms of packaging, logistics, transport, and the like, these businesses, their margins are going to come under pressure. And when you don't have an enthusiastic client base, I think their margins are going to continue to get squeezed in the medium term.

MF: Did you end up selling at a loss or a gain?

DF: We held it for quite a long period of time. Let me just have a look. We might have been close to square. Maybe a moderate profit. 

We would have done really nice if we'd sold at 50 or 60 cents, but we sold it in the high 30s, low 40s, having bought it a couple of years previously. So it wasn't as good as we thought it would have been. 

Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo has positions in Microsoft, Temple & Webster Group Ltd, and Whispir Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Activision Blizzard, Kogan.com ltd, Microsoft, Temple & Webster Group Ltd, and Whispir Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has recommended Adore Beauty Group Limited. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Kogan.com ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Activision Blizzard, Adore Beauty Group Limited, Temple & Webster Group Ltd, and Whispir Ltd. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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