Sir Branson, Virgin and Brexit

07/07/2016 10:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Vivian Lewis

Editor and Publisher, Global Investing

As a speculative play, we bought a new small financial player -- a fast-growing UK lender and credit card company founded by Sir Richard Branson, notes Vivian Lewis, international stock expert and editor of Global Investing.

Branson is a UK entrepreneur and head of the Virgin Group. His fledgling bank, Virgin Money Holdings (VRGDF) has suffered more than most big banks in the wake of the Brexit vote. 

The share price fell by a third during the initial panic, from £3.65 to £2.15. Insiders stepped in, with Chairman Glen Moreno buying shares and non-executive Director Colin Keogh buying 20,000 shares.

VM does not fund industry or mortgages. Rather, Virgin Money is a retail operator, financing credit cards using small investor deposits and bond purchases. It also sells pensions and insurance products for UK residents,

Note also that buyers of other Virgin business, like music, are also being sold VM banking products and credit cards. The bank also offers credit cards linked to frequent flier miles on Virgin Air (but not in the US).

Analysts love the concept and rated it buy-strong buy in London, admittedly before the Brexit vote. The numbers are excellent up to the end of 2015, the last reported.

Revenues rose to £522 million from prior year £438 million, on which pre-tax profits came to £138 million or 22.9 pence/sh vs. £34 million or minus 4 pence per share in 2014.

Now that it has profits, its price to earnings ratio is 16.6x. These prices are all in sterling, of course.

The stock is listed on the London exchange. However, we are buying the pink sheet GDR – which is an ADR issued for institutional investors.

The ADR is considered “seasoned”, having been listed in late 2014. Therefore, US retail investors can also buy it. You should pay $3.30 or less.

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By Vivian Lewis, Editor of Global Investing

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