OK, we’re not talking Silicon Valley, here. But the idea that Alberta is all oil sands, grass fed beef and hard back checking left-wingers isn’t the whole truth, either.
Like most Canadian provinces, Alberta’s technology is a mix of sub-sectors, but there’s a vein of the hardscrabble prairie life running through many of its tech companies, and more than a few have devised better or cleaner ways to extract oil from sandy bitumen. Then there’s the increasing number of companies born out of research at University of Calgary, one of Canada’s top research universities and the birthplace of the neurochip.
Cantech Letter counts down Alberta’s Ten Most Interesting Tech Stocks, ranked by their most recently reported annual revenues.
1. Hemisphere GPS (TSX:HEM)
2010 Revenue: $56 million
The performance of most TSX stocks hasn’t been great of late, but shareholders of Hemisphere GPS (TSX:HEM) have been hit particularly hard. Shares of the Calgary based maker of next-generation GPS hit a high of $1.51 on February 4th, but bottomed out at $.60 cents in early Autumn. What may have shareholders scratching their heads is the company’s financial performance, which seems inversely related to its chart. Hemisphere’s strong Q1 and Q2 2011, which came in at $21.2 million and $20.12 million respectively, did little to slow the slide of the stock from a very poor Q4 2010, which barely topped $12 million. The market cap of Hemisphere GPS is now a shade under $40 million, while the company’s 2010 revenue was $56 million.But at least one noted investor says its time to buy. Benj Gallander, author and founder of the the popular site Contra the Heard thinks Hemisphere GPS’s current situation represents opportunity. Gallander is bullish on the prospects of the company to make a dent in the precision farming market. Precision farming, or precision agriculture, is a term that only began to gain traction at the end of the last century, but since that time since has become an increasingly important method of increasing crop yield worldwide. The burgeoning industry has attracted the interest of farm equipment manufacturers like John Deere, and large agrochemical companies like Monsanto and Dow Elanco.
Calgary’s Computer Modelling Group is an Alberta technology success story. In 1978, the company was a small Calgary based research facility, and was actually a non-profit entity for the first seventeen years of its existence. When CMG decided to go for a profit, they were pretty good at it and continue to be; the company has more than doubled its revenue from $23.7 million in fiscal 2007 to more nearly $52 million in 2011. Today, CMG has five offices around the world, and is more likely to make a sale of its leading edge reservoir simulation software outside of Canada than here at home. Reservoir simulation software has become an important tool for oil and gas companies. Computer models allow them to better predict the expected production, allowing for more better financial decisions.
3. Afexa Life Sciences (TSX:FXA)
2011 Revenue: $39.77 million
For shareholders of Calgary’s Afexa Life Sciences, which is best known for producing and marketing the COLD-FX flu remedy, 2011 has contained two vastly different stories. The beginning of this year was a rough ride. Investors clearly didn’t like the uncertainty around the Afexa’s management situation, sending shares of the beleaguered company as low as $.365 cents this past July. Earlier this year, Afexa had announced that Jack Moffatt, the man who steered it since a 2008 shakeup, would not be back and the company had not found a replacement. The company’s numbers weren’t helping. Afexa’s fiscal 2011 revenue was just $39.6 million, down from $56.1 million in 2010. But the company’s fortunes changed dramatically when the rumour mill started swirling that the big boys Paladin Labs and Valeant (formerly Biovail) were interested in acquiring the company. Valeant ultimately acquired three-quarters of Afexa at $.85 cents. Shares of the company had traded as low as $.35 cents in July.
4. Alter NRG (TSX:NRG)
2010 Revenue: $13.28 million
A bit of a shakeup at Alter NRG of late as Mark Montemurro resigned as CEO and was joined by Michael Heier, who resigned as chairman. The company, which had focused on three segments of alternative energy, is now moving towards becoming a plasma gasification pure play, a strategy that the board believes is the company’s clearest path towards profitability. Alter NRG recently shored up its balance sheet with the sale of Fox Creek coal leases for (US) $5-million.
5. Serenic (TSXV:SER)
2010 Revenue: $10.55 million
A little digging into the business of Edmonton’s Serenic (TSXV:SER) reveals some interesting economic trends. Serenic, which makes software that helps international non-profits and NGO’s better manage their resources, appeared poised to benefit from a shift that many hadn’t noticed. As The New York Times reported at the time, the number of charities in the United States rose 60 percent, to 1.1 million, in the decade between 1999 and 2009. In the US, charities now collect nearly a trillion and a half dollars, which is more than the US government collects in income taxes. In Canada, philanthropic donations jumped 127% after a 1996 amendment by the Canada Revenue Agency that ditched the capital gains tax on gifts of securities. The economic downturn that began in late 2008, however, hit charities especially hard. Midway through 2009, Boston based consulting firm The Bridgespan Group reported that 75% of charities had been hurt by the recession. Newer data suggests long-term trends in charitable giving are now resuming. A study by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, a coalition of six organizations that study or represent nonprofits and fund raisers, showed that 43 per cent of charitable organizations increased the amount of money they raised in 2010, and 63 per cent of the more than 1,800 organizations studied said they expect private donations to rise in 2011.
6. Acceleware (TSXV:AXE)
2010 Revenue: $2.48 Million
Calgary’s Acceleware is still small, revenue wise, but the company plays with the big boys. Giants like Samsung, Kodak, General Mills and Nokia use their High Performance Computing Applications. As its name suggests, Acceleware is concerned with accelerating computing time to data intensive sectors, such as engineering, oil and gas, image reconstruction, pharmaceuticals and defense. A recent breast cancer detection project for the University of Wisconsin-Madison used Acceleware solution to generate images in hours instead of the days it would have normally taken.
7. Wavefront (TSXV:WEE)
2010 Revenue: $2.4 million
Edmonton’s Wavefront Technology (TSXV:WEE) takes physics to the oil patch. Beginning with research done at the University of Waterloo, Wavefront researchers managed to figure out the physics that caused fluid changes after earthquakes and how to apply the now patented process to the injection of fluids for enhanced oil recovery and groundwater clean up. While Wavefront’s stock has been a roller-coaster, with three major spikes and retreats since 2006, the company is beginning to show real success in commercializing its science, having now recorded six consecutive quarters of increased revenue. Cantech Letter’s Nick Waddell caught up with Wavefront President and CEO Brett Davidson in Vancouver recently to talk about the roots of the company’s long journey from concept to reality.
8. Poynt (TSXV:PYN)
2010: Revenue: $0.92 million
By almost any measure, Poynt is a runaway success. The app is consistently ranked at or near the top of BlackBerry’s App World and, at varying times, has been ranked in the top ten apps on the iPhone. It’s even featured in one those slick Blackberry “SuperApps” commercials. But is Poynt, the eponymous company that was called Multiplied Media until last October, a one trick pony? And what about the small matter of monetizing the app? Despite having more than five million users, Poynt lost $3.7 million on revenues of just $$573,399 in its most recent quarter. Of course, after the acquisition of go2media’s mobile advertising platform laid Poynt’s intentions in that area plain, many investors are thinking those kinds of numbers might soon be a thing of the past.
9. Oncolytics Biotech (TSX:ONC)
2010 Revenue: Zero
Calgary’s Oncolytics Biotech grew out of discoveries made in the 1990’s in the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary. The Company’s Reolysin, a formulation of reovirus, a family of viruses that can affect the gastrointestinal system and have shown to have oncolytic, or cancer killing properties, is about to enter Phase 3 trials. Recently, Cantech Letter’s Nick Waddell talked to Dr. Brad Thompson, Oncolytics President and CEO.
10. Resverlogix (TSX:RVX)
2011 Revenue: Zero
Your company makes software that helps you run bake sales in Medicine Hat? Not sexy. Your company makes a drug that may grab a substantial portion of the $35 billion cholesterol-fighting market, like Resverlogix? Sexy. It’s been a wild ride for shareholders, but the hope remains that Resverlogix’s potentially groundbreaking treatment, RVX-208 may be able to reverse the buildup of arterial plaque by spurring the production of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. These would be a entirely new approach in an industry dominated by statins such as Lipitor, which lower production of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Late last year, Cantech Letter caught up with Resverlogix President and CEO Donald McCaffrey.