Blooming Small-Cap IPOs

By Linda McDonough

Lilacs and forsythia aren’t the only things blooming this May. Young companies eager for cash are budding all over. Although only three deals have priced so far this month, at least another 16 are waiting in the wings. If all these deals are priced, May would record the highest number of deals so far this year. Twenty of the 62 IPOs priced to date have been biotechs.

Starting the craze: Spark Therapeutics (Nasdaq: ONCE) launched a January IPO that opened up 96% from its deal price and traded as high as $77 this year before retreating to $60, a level still 160% higher than the $23 offering price. Eager buyers sent many biotech IPOs skyrocketing after pricing, some doubling within days.

A puncture to the group in April has deflated many of those gains but the group overall is still up since pricing. The class of 2015 biotech IPOs are up an average of 6% from their deal price.

Collegium Pharmaceutical (Nasdaq: COLL), based in Canton, Mass., started trading on May 7th and looks quite interesting. Unlike all the other biotechs in queue, Collegium has a product submitted to the FDA. In February it filed a new drug application (NDA) for an abuse-deterrent, extended-release version of oxycodone. Collegium has done head-to-head trials with Oxycontin OP, the abuse-deterrent version of oxycodone currently on the market, and shown it was more effective.

Oxycontin OP currently has sales of $2.5 billion in the U.S. Collegium’s DETERx technology can be used on other potentially abusable painkillers as well. Collegium has a market cap of $250 million.

Bojangles (Nasdaq: BOJA), a restaurant chain famous for their Cajun fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, made its market debut on May 8th. Investors have been starry eyed for high growth restaurant stocks recently. For example, Shake Shack (NYSE: SHAK) trades at $66, an outrageous valuation based on the 5 cents it is expected to earn this year and the 9 cents anticipated in 2016. Zoe’s Kitchen (NYSE: ZOES) has been described as a Mediterranean version of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Although officially “cheaper” than Shake Shack, Zoe’s trades at 640 times 2015 estimates and despite tripling earnings in 2016, still trades at 200 times that number! Clearly investors are willing to pay up for growth.

With such a broad umbrella for valuation, Bojangles should have no problem finding buyers of its stock. Bojangles has put up some impressive growth despite its fairly large base of 635 stores. Store growth has been compounding at 7% for the past 5 years but revenue is growing faster at 13% as units generate higher sales. Operating income has been growing roughly 15% and the company disclosed preliminary results for the March quarter which showcases 18% growth in operating income.

With an average check of $6.68, Bojangles believes they deliver the lowest tab to fast food diners nationwide. Low prices and terrific value helped keep customers loyal during the recession. Same store comparable sales have increased every single quarter since June 2010. Earnings per share increased only slightly in 2014 due to an increased higher tax rate. However based on the 18% growth seen in the first quarter of this year it’s quite possible that earnings follow that trajectory for the entire year.

Bojangles has an $865 million market cap and and trades for 24 times 2014 earnings. Formal estimates for 2015 will not be released until the company’s quiet period ends but should mirror the 18% growth seen in the first quarter and leave plenty of upside for this stock.

Another notable deal set to price the week of May 11th is Arcadia Biosciences (Nasdaq: RKDA). Arcadia develops genetically modified food traits for crops. Although competition is fierce from Monsanto and Syngenta, Arcadia is focusing on the niche of nitrogen efficiency and drought tolerance. The company is losing money currently with little revenue growth. However progress in developing and proving more seed traits which should result in higher sales. Arcadia’s market cap will be $530 million at $14, the middle of its $13-$15 pricing range.