The Toronto Stock Exchange isn’t exactly teeming with pandemic powerhouses.
There’s Shopify Inc., of course, which rode a surge in online shopping this year to become the world’s second-largest e-commerce platform, behind only Amazon.com Inc.
A handful of other large Canadian listings were well positioned for the profound economic and social changes foisted on the world by the novel coronavirus. Cargojet Inc., for example, pounced on the boom in global air cargo. Up-and-coming software companies Kinaxis Inc. and Lightspeed POS Inc. captured the market’s attention by helping businesses adapt to their new reality.
The rest of the Canadian stock leaderboard in 2020 has been dominated by precious metals miners, forestry companies and renewable energy.
But there is life beyond the confines of the S&P/TSX Composite Index. Here are a few pandemic-era success stories plucked from the vast ranks of Canada’s small-cap stock universe.
Year-to-date share price growth: 353 per cent
Like everything else, Docebo’s stock sold off in March when the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic dawned on the world. But the trough was shallow and brief, as investors quickly realized that the company was uniquely positioned for the mass shift of workers to home offices.
Docebo provides cloud-based employee learning software, which became a hot commodity as companies adapted to work-from-home and decentralized training. Back in May, founder and chief executive officer Claudio Erba spoke of a “crazy increase in adoption” by Docebo’s customers.
The pace of growth didn’t really slow as the pandemic wore on. In the third quarter, the company reported a 52-per-cent increase in revenue, year over year. Docebo even turned a profit, on an adjusted EBITDA basis, one year ahead of schedule, although the priority remains growth over profitability, Mr. Erba said on an earnings call last month. “We believe we are still only scratching the surface on the market potential for digital learning.”
Year-to-date share price growth: 340 per cent
Specialty food supplier SunOpta was in the midst of a turnaround effort when the pandemic hit. Too much debt and too few profits had made the stock a perennial underperformer.
When the hospitality industry essentially shut down, consumers were forced to change their dining habits. Big trends in the grocery industry emerged. Demand for oat milk, for example, soared. Facing triple-digit growth in its oat milk segment, SunOpta announced last month that it would expand its Minnesota-based oat-processing facility to quadruple production by the end of 2022.
The company’s other big move of the year was a deal to sell its organic ingredients business – the company’s largest segment – in order to pay down debt and focus on fruit-and-plant-based food lines.
As CEO Joe Ennen said on the company’s last earnings call: “We believe it is safe to say that SunOpta is no longer a turnaround story, we are quite simply a sustainable growth story.”
Dorel Industries Inc.
Year-to-date share price growth: 148 per cent
Dorel is another company that saw its fortunes reverse as a result of the pandemic. For four years, its stock was in a downslide, culminating in the suspension of its generous dividend in October, 2019. The company blamed the trade war between the United States and China.
Dorel has three distinct segments: sports products, including bicycle brands Cannondale and Schwinn; children’s products, including car seats; and home furniture. Tariffs on Chinese-sourced products were wreaking havoc on the company’s finances, the company said.
Owing to the spread of COVID-19, however, suddenly everyone needed a bicycle. With gyms closed and people afraid to ride transit, bike manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand.
Dorel started to handily beat analysts’ forecasts as sales picked up. But the company evidently has had enough of being publicly traded, and last month agreed to be taken private.
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