For a lot of people, buying and holding a tracker or exchange-traded fund that follows the FTSE 100 index can make a great deal of sense. These passive vehicles allow you to earn the same return as the market -- minus fees and a bit of tracking error -- while getting on with life and more important matters. Over the last year, this return has been 3%, ignoring dividends.
For those with time on their hands and a desire for better returns however, it pays to look further down the market spectrum for those companies that have shown an ability to outperform the market's top tier. Here are just two examples, one of which reported to investors this morning.
Encouraging end to the year
Shares in small-cap industrial fastenings manufacturer Trifast(LSE: TRI) have performed well over the past 12 months, rising 23% and thus vastly outperforming the index housing the UK's biggest companies. Although no actual numbers were given, today's trading update for the full year to the end of March suggests this momentum should continue.
With the exception of the US, all of Trifast's main geographies delivered profit growth over the financial year. Indeed, underlying pre-tax profit is now expected to be "slightly ahead" of previous expectations thanks to what the company labels as an "encouraging" end to the financial year. Organic revenue growth was seen in all of the regions in which the company operates.
Looking ahead, Trifast's future earnings are likely to be enhanced by this month's acquisition of Precision Technology Supplies -- a UK supplier and distributor of stainless steel fastenings. This purchase was made in response to what the company perceives as "growing demand" from a number of its customers looking for "fully recyclable, high strength and corrosion-resistant" fastening solutions. Despite also increasing investment in its facilities over the last year (with more due in 2018/19), Trifast's balance sheet remains strong.
Although management wished to emphasise that some macroeconomic factors (such as foreign currency movements and the impact of Brexit) could not be fully mitigated, I'm inclined to think that a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 20 feels just about reasonable given Trifast's solid growth credentials.
Another small-cap that's been performing well recently has been cafe and casual dining group Patisserie Holdings(LSE: CAKE). Indeed, the stock is up almost 40% since I last looked at it back in November following an encouraging set of full-year results.
To recap, revenue and pre-tax profit rose 9.7% (to £114.2m) and 17.1% (to £20.2m) respectively in the 12 months to the end of September last year.
A total of 20 new stores were opened, all of which were funded with operating cash flows. According to Executive Chairman Luke Johnson, many of these were already performing "ahead of expectations" at results time. The signing of a supply-only agreement with supermarket giant Sainsbury's was another interesting development, helping to further raise the company's profile among shoppers.
Results for the full year are due mid-May. While some may use this as an opportunity to take profits, I'd be inclined to stick with the shares a while longer. While the impact of reduced consumer confidence can't be ignored, Patisserie's strong management, excellent financial position (£21.5m net cash back in November) and growth prospects suggests its best days still lie ahead.
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Paul Summers has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Patisserie Holdings. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.