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When times are tough, you can still get Plenti

This week’s Bulls N’ Bears profiled ASX runner is… Plenti Group. Credit: File

After one of the most difficult recent years for the ASX, small-cap companies and investors alike have regularly found it difficult to rub even a couple of shekels together … but some of them have also had “Plenti”.

Throughout the past 12 months, borrowers have been hard hit by interest rate hikes from the Reserve Bank that have then been passed on by the banking sector, including the “Big Four” in Westpac, ANZ, National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Commonwealth Bank, leading to a drop in consumer loan confidence.

Enter Plenti Group, a financial technology company that was established in 2014 and which offers automotive, renewable energy and personal loans, delivered by its proprietary smart technology. In what this column sees as a clear sign of the times, the company’s share price jumped this week more than 114 per cent from a previous close of 34.5 cents to touch 74c on the back of its strategic partnership with NAB.

Known as “NAB powered by Plenti”, the partnership broadens the consumer finance offerings available to the bank’s customers, while increasing and diversifying the revenue streams of both partner companies.

In the first stage of the deal, the pair will launch a “NAB powered by Plenti” car and electric vehicle loan, with loans funded by the bank and the fintech taking responsibility for the provision of loan application experiences, credit assessment, loan settlement and on-going loan and customer management.

The partners are also planning to develop a referral program to help NAB’s customers finance the purchase of eligible renewable energy systems, including via Plenti’s GreenConnect platform, with opportunities for the potential expansion of products to be considered over time.

Essentially, the partnership allows borrowers the opportunity to access NAB’s lending capital through Plenti without having to deal directly with the bank. The available loans also give potential customers the warm and fuzzy feeling of doing something to help the environment, whether it is through the electric vehicle loan program or the renewable energy system platform.

However, the agreement also comes with an equity investment deal where NAB can acquire up to 15 per cent interest in Plenti either through subscription or market shares. The bank can make market purchases of up to 5 per cent of the fintech’s capital from the launch of the “NAB powered by Plenti” program, in addition to two further potential placements at 5 per cent each.

The placement will potentially give Plenti plenty of new capital to help accelerate the growth of its existing activities.

It appears to have been the week for such deals, with software company Intelicare surging more than 113 per cent from a close of 1.5c to jump up to 3.2c during the week, after announcing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with independent and not-for-profit aged care provider, Bolton Clarke. Intelicare uses data collected from smart sensors, wearable technology and alerting devices to give providers the ability to provide high-quality care to seniors and people living with disabilities.

The non-binding MOU is understood to be a precursor to another strategic partnership agreement, with the two companies set to work together to create pilot projects to assess the possible enhancement of Intelicare products.

The company’s smart sensors learn household routines, including sleeping patterns, movement, bathroom visits and food preparation. If there are any changes in activity, InteliCare will alert the care team so they can alter care and potentially prevent an incident or fall from occurring.

Imagine all that a couple of decades ago!

Bolton Clarke is Australia’s biggest independent not-for-profit aged care provider, supporting more than 130,000 people at home and in its 88 residential homes and 38 retirement villages nationally. The organisation is among only 3 per cent of Australian aged care providers offering a full range of connected care and living options, underpinned by a dedicated Research Institute and with a focus on enhancing lives through leading research and applied knowledge.

All in all, this appears to be a good deal. Intelicare gets to design and develop its solutions with a large industry participant, while Bolton Clarke has the opportunity to use technology to support its quality aged care and independent living services.

Remarkably, while researching the deal between the two potential partners, this columnist discovered that an in-law had previously provided a glowing testimonial to the benefits of Intelicare’s products. This was completely accidental and a total surprise, but probably worth mentioning in regards to total disclosure.

Software company Intelicare has signed a memorandum of understanding with care provider Bolton Clarke. Credit: File

It seems that every week, the market throws up a runner that has surged without a significant or market-sensitive announcement. This week, the culprit is LBT Innovations, which leapt a massive 280 per cent from a close of 0.5 cents to touch 1.9c.

Admittedly, there was some news flow from the company that designs advanced technology solutions for the medical industry, including a new presentation, an address to shareholders and a results of meeting update. But none were tagged as market sensitive and in the case of the results of meeting, it only contained a remuneration report adoption and the naming of a new director.

LBT’s first product, MicroStreak, was a global first in the automation of culture plate specimen processing. Its second product, the Automated Plate Assessment System, uses the company’s intelligent imaging and machine-learning software to automate the imaging, analysis and interpretation of culture plates following incubation. It remains the only United States Food and Drug Administration-cleared AI technology for automated culture plate reading.

In January this year, management announced a $1.1 million partnership with AstraZeneca – a name you will probably remember from the covid vaccine roll-out – to extend the application of the technology into the pharmaceutical manufacturing market for the reading of environmental monitoring culture plates.

Now, this deal with AstraZeneca may be the catalyst for LBT’s recent jump after the bio-pharmaceutical company presented its experience using LBT’s product at last week’s annual PharmaLab-Congress and Exhibition held at Dusseldorf in Germany last week. AstraZeneca used the presentation to outline its vision for the implementation of the technology within the company’s routine environmental monitoring process.

Perhaps the delegates at this year’s German-based exhibition were suitably impressed by the presentation, leading to the whopping share price hike. Time will tell.

And for those playing at home, culture plates are disposable or reusable shallow containers specifically designed to support the growth and propagation of cells in culture.

Finally, we return to the comparatively more comfortable and easily-understood (well, for this columnist) resources sector, where Euro Manganese leapt almost 110 per cent from a close of 10.5c up to 22c after yet another agreement – this time with Orion Resource Partners Group for US$100 million (AU$151 million) to advance the development of the Chvaletice manganese project in the Czech Republic.

Now Euro Manganese is very clear about this operation … it is not a mining project. Sitting about 90km east of Prague, Chvaletice entails re-processing a significant manganese deposit contained in tailings from a decommissioned mine that operated between 1951 and 1975.

According to management, the project is a unique and innovative waste recycling initiative that avoids the negative impacts of traditional hard-rock mining. Euro Manganese says that as the operation recycles historic mine tailings, it will clean up the contaminated site and eliminate a long-standing source of water pollution. Over the 25-year life, remediation and reclamation work will be conducted to bring the entire Chvaletice site into compliance with the Czech Republic’s stringent environmental regulations and standards.

The Orion funding will be split into two US$50 million (AU$75.5 million) components.

One half will be considered a loan facility convertible into a 1.29 to 1.65 per cent royalty on project revenues, with US$20 million (AU$30.2 million) to be received upon closing and an additional US$30 million (AU$45.3 million) handed over upon meeting milestones that have been developed with Orion to match Euro Manganese’s plans on a final investment decision (FID). The second receipt of US$50 million will be in exchange for a 1.93 to 2.47 per cent royalty on project revenues following a FID.

So, while the project is definitely not a mine, both companies are looking at significant revenues from the potential sale of the manganese offtake from the recycling of the tailings from a deposit. But, definitely not a mine.

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