Down in the dark dungeon of the NZX are several listed companies that receive little, if any, media attention. Most of these are unloved because they have failed to deliver on their promises.

But while there is life there is hope, and investors continue to rummage through this group of companies, hoping to find one that is showing signs of a miraculous recovery or has engineered a successful backdoor listing.

Some names keep cropping up in this space, including Roger Gower, Sean Joyce, John Sorensen and Brett Wilkinson.

Thirteen listed companies are trading at 3c or less.

Claridge Capital, previously known as Regal Salmon, Queen Charlotte Holdings, Aquaria 21 and Certified Organics, underwent yet another change at its October annual meeting when Wilkinson and Donald Gibson replaced Gower and Evan Davies as directors. Claridge’s other current director is Sean Joyce.

In early November, the company said it would backdoor list the business assets of SeaDragon Marine Oils, a Nelson producer of Omega 3 and shark liver oils.

The acquisition will cost $2.2 million through the issue of 600 million shares at 0.37c each.

Claridge will have a sharemarket value of $14.5 million when the new shares are issued based on the current share price of 1.6c.

No financial information on SeaDragon has been disclosed but Claridge shareholders will have to approve the deal after the release of an independent appraisal report.

Cynotech, 78.4 per cent owned by Allan Hawkins’ Cynotech Securities, continues to report large losses and a shrinking finance company asset base.

As well, it has ice cream cone manufacturing and temporary seating operations that have ceased operating after the Rugby World Cup.

GFNZ Group, formerly known as Geneva Finance, is also struggling, although it continues to meet its debt repayment to investors.

The finance company reported a loss of $264,000 for the six months to September 30, against a loss of $8,649,000 for the March 2011 year.

Its total assets have fallen from $164.5 million in March 2007 to $58.2 million at the end of September.

The future of the finance company, which is 9.6 per cent owned by former Chase executive Peter Francis, depends on its ability to find new funding.

Heritage Mining, 10 per cent owned by the company’s Bermuda-based chairman Geoffrey Hill, continues to disappoint even though the gold price has surged.

The company is generating no operating income as it struggles to get its Karangahake gold prospect near Waihi and other prospects off the ground.

Insurance Group has been another disappointment as it evolved from Agland Holdings to Pure New Zealand to the failed finance company Lombard and now to a Perth-based general insurance group.

Its chairman, Bill Jeffries, has been on trial in the High Court at Wellington in relation to Lombard’s activities.

Lombard was the backdoor listing vehicle for Insurance, but the new company has disappointed – it had June 2010 year losses of $2.2 million and a $3.3 million loss last year.

There are no reports from the recent annual meeting, held in Perth, although Jeffries wrote in the June 2011 year annual report that the company would start offering wealth management services.

Investment Research, an investment information and advice company, is the brain child of Brent King, its current managing director. The company started as Viking Capital but changed its name to Investment Research in 2008.

It has reported large losses over the past 4 years and struggles to develop a viable business model.

NZF Group, formerly known as New Zealand Finance, is the fourth former or current finance company in this penny stocks group.

The company, which is chaired by Craig Alexander, recently announced a loss of $11.1 million for the six months to September 30 and the sale of its home loan division.

Orion Minerals started its life on the NZX as RLV No 3, made an aborted attempt to backdoor list The Joneses real estate agency and finally acquired an iron ore mine in Chile which was to begin production in the September 2009 quarter.

This project was abandoned, as was a proposal to spend US$6.1 million on an indirect 2 per cent stake in “a leading vertically integrated total solution provider” in China. The company is now looking at private equity investments in China.

Orion is chaired by Roger Gower, has Sean Joyce on the board and Brett Wilkinson has played a leading role in its development.

The company, which is trying to keep out of the limelight, held its annual meeting in Auckland on December 30 without prior notification to the NZX.

It has US$7.6 million in cash and no revenue, but pays its directors US$275,000 a year.

The strong cash position is encouraging but the board could easily squander it with one poor investment.

RIS, formerly known as Newcall Technologies and Holly Springs Investment, is another Gower, Joyce, Wilkinson-related entity but they are no longer on the board.

The company, which is based in Australia, says it has “a ‘best practice’ Eftpos terminal operating environment and payments system”.

However, its business model isn’t working, there have been numerous board and management resignations, its annual report is late and the company has been censured by the NZX.

On December 23, Salvus shareholders elected Simon Wallace, Tim Cook and Mark Darrow to the board after the return of $17.3 million cash to shareholders.

Immediately after the meeting the existing directors – including this writer – resigned and the company is now a listed shell looking for a backdoor acquisition.

Savoy Equities was previously known as Genestock, Parapine Timber and Counterpoint Equities.

It is now focusing on its malaria and arthritis projects based on the Chinese herb artemisia.

Chairman Garrick Wells said in November that the company had signed a contract to grow a new crop of artemisia overseas.

This may be the last chance for Savoy.

TRS Investments, formerly known as E-Cademy then Trading Solutions, has no revenue and no assets, although chairman Keith Jackson wrote in the March 2011 year annual report that plans to acquire agriculture assets had been delayed rather than abandoned.

Finally there is Vero Capital, which was previously named Australasian Breeding Stables, Strathmore, Media Technology and Forge Media and had John Sorenson on the board and now has Sean Joyce.

Velo recently entered a heads of agreement to buy VoucherMob for $4.4 million through the issue of 620 million Velo shares at 0.7c each and $100,000 cash.

Velo’s sharemarket value will be $19.5 million when these shares are issued based on the current 3c share price.

VoucherMob has developed “a smartphone based digital wallet and sophisticated cloud-based m-commerce platform”.

Velo, like most of the other 12 penny stocks, predicts a bright future although most of these companies have had numerous reincarnations with little or no success.

But investors will continue to look at these low-priced stocks in the hope they can identify a repeat of Charlie’s successful backdoor listing.

But they should be careful as most companies that inhabit the dark dungeon of the NZX usually promise far more than they deliver, particularly when they have bought an overseas operation or moved into the technology sector.

Penny Stocks – Looking for the next Charlie’s

  Price Value Chairman Comment
Claridge Capital 1.6c $4.9m S Joyce To acquire SeaDragon Marine Oils for $2.2m
Cynotech Holdings 0.7c $0.9m A Hawkins Former Equiticorp boss continues to struggle
GFNZ Group 1.5c $2.7m D Smale Repaying existing investors, needs new funding 
Heritage Gold 2.2c $7.6m G Hill No operating income, struggling to develop mines
Insurance Group 2.0c $0.3m W Jeffries Based in Western Australia, limited information
Investment Research 0.6c $3.1m M Yee Struggling to develop a viable business model
NZF Group 3.0c $3.3m C Alexander In depth strategic review due early this year
Orion Minerals 0.5c $2.1m R Gower Had US$7.6m cash in June, now looking at China
RIS 1.0c $7.1m ? A number of board resignations but has raised $1.5m
Salvus Strategic 2.5c $0.5m M Darrow Has returned $17.3m to shareholders, has new board
Savoy Equities 1.2c $2.4m G Wells Developing a product for malaria and arthritis sufferers
TRS Investments 0.1c $1.1m K Jackson No revenue and no cash but looking for acquisitions
Velo Capital 3.0c $0.9m C Due To acquire VoucherMob for $4.4m