MESSAGE FROM FUND MANAGEMENT
To our valued shareholders:
We are pleased to provide the semi-annual report for the period ended February 28, 2017. This is a time when the Saskatchewan economy is coming off its second year of negative GDP growth from continued low commodity prices and a challenging budget due to a resource revenue shortfall in the billions. The financial challenges faced by the provincial government resulted in a 3.5% wage reduction by all public service employees, reduced municipal revenues, a 1% increase in provincial sales tax, closure of Saskatchewan Transportation Company, and a reduction in programming across the board to support a three-year plan to a balanced budget.
In addition to the fiscal challenges reflected in the budget, the province also recognized the vital role of Golden Opportunities Fund in the Saskatchewan economy through the investment of over 28,000 shareholders; creating jobs, providing valuable growth capital to small and medium-sized companies, and supporting continued diversification away from resource revenues through investment in innovation. However, the asset class was not exempt from fiscal tightening in the budget and will see a one-time change reducing the provincial tax credit in Saskatchewan from 20% to 17.5% commencing in the 2018 tax filing year, and reduction of the annual capitalization limit to $35 million from $40 million per retail venture capital (RVC) fund. The reinstated 15% federal tax credit was reconfirmed by the federal budget released the same day as the provincial budget. There will be no change to the 35% tax credits for Saskatchewan investors for the 2017 tax filing year. The move to 32.5% will apply in 2018 and subsequent tax years. The tax credits on RVC investments remain higher in Saskatchewan than all other provinces in Western Canada. Through their continued support of tax credits both the provincial and federal governments have confirmed the vital role of Golden Opportunities during this fiscally challenging time.
In the shadow of this sluggish economy and lower employment rates in Saskatchewan, Golden Opportunities is pleased to report strong support from shareholders raising capital of approximately $31 million in the 2016/2017 RRSP season. Net assets in all share classes have increased, showing continued confidence in Golden Opportunities Fund in both good and challenging economic times. Since our year-end reporting on August 31, 2016, the overall net assets of the Fund grew by 8.5% from $273 million to $296 million.
In the reporting period, Golden Opportunities once again took an innovative lead role in recognizing shareholder interests and the changing regulatory environment of our dealer network by becoming the first no-load RVC Fund in Canada. With shareholder approval in December 2016, the Fund eliminated the deferred sales charge (early redemption fee) on all share classes which historically applied to shareholders wishing to redeem prior to maturity of the eight-year hold period. The claw back of the tax credits, per federal and provincial legislation, continues to exist upon early redemption.
The Fund’s largest share class, the Diversified Class A-share, grew once again, increasing its net asset value by 7.3% to $258 million from the last reporting period and achieving a Globefund rating of 4 out of 5 stars for its positive year-over-year performance. The share class posted notable transactions in the period that align with the principles of value creation and increasing yield through its management buyout portfolio.
On December 29, 2016, Prairie Plant Systems Inc. completed its initial public offering (IPO) under the name CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. (CMED) on the Toronto Stock Exchange, raising $69 million in an oversubscribed public offering. Golden Opportunities Fund is the largest investor, controlling 3.5 million shares of this medicinal cannabis company. Having invested at an early stage when the company received its first contract from Health Canada to become the sole-source supplier of medical cannabis to the federal government, we are pleased to have supported this innovative company in becoming a major Canadian pharmaceutical player. CMED today has over 10,000 registered patients and 3,000 doctors prescribing its CanniMed product, produced in a state-of-the-art production plant, the only one in Canada with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certification. Since its public offering CMED has announced:
- An exclusive Canadian licensing agreement for cannabis ODF (Orally Dissolvable Film) thin wafer with CTT Pharmaceutical Holdings.
- Canada’s first exclusive pharmacy distribution agreement for medical cannabis with PharmaChoice.
- Two export permits from Health Canada and initial purchase orders for distribution to Australia and the Cayman Islands.
On January 9, 2017, Golden Opportunities Fund announced completion of the acquisition of Fort Garry Brewing Company alongside management and local strategic partners purchasing all the assets and brands of this long-standing market leader in the Mantioba craft beer industry. The Fund’s focus on investments providing strong portfolio yields, and the opportunity to deploy Manitoba-raised capital in this growth sector, were key contributors to this transaction. This award-winning craft beer is sold in over 200 restaurants in Manitoba, and since the transaction, has increased its customer base to Saskatchewan establishments as well. The craft beer industry is seeing compound growth rates across Canada. The Fund is pleased to bring this well-known brewery back to local ownership after having been acquired from publicly traded Russell Breweries Inc.
In the reporting period, Med-Life Discoveries LP (MLD) completed the acquisition of all the proprietary assets, patents and technology related to the detection or treatment of life threatening diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and RCDP from FTI Consulting Canada Inc. The focus now shifts from protecting this world-class asset portfolio, on behalf of Golden Opportunities’ shareholders, to maximizing value with an aligned local shareholder base and leadership team. To that end some significant steps were achieved:
- Contract renewals with, and recruitment of key staff including senior scientific personnel.
- Continued licensing and daily processing of Cologic, PanaSee, and Alz-ID tests.
- Developing reference standards to allow for the MLD suit of tests to be run on multiple open platforms.
- Compiling, analysing, and publishing the results of pre-clinical studies for MLD’s therapeutics.
The Innovation Class i-share also experienced a significant growth in net assets in this reporting period, increasing by 19.7% from $24.6 million at fiscal year-end 2016 to $29.5 million. The Innovation share class is gaining increased awareness given both the federal and provincial governments’ need to drive toward an innovation economy to create new high paying jobs and ensure diversification away from the resource sector. This theme is evident in both the federal and provincial budgets delivered on March 22, 2017 and subsequent recognition of the importance of innovation funds, specifically share classes like the Innovation Class i-share. The Fund’s Innovation share class performed positively in the reporting period with less impact from prolonged low commodity prices than other share classes, but also due to the CanniMed IPO. Golden Opportunities’ i-share controls more than 490,000 shares of CanniMed. For these reasons and other portfolio milestones, the net assets for the share class not only experienced double digit growth but also a double digit one-year return of 11.31% at the end of the reporting period. The culmination of these performance statistics resulted in the i-share continuing its year-end, five-star Globefund rating and recognition as the top performing RVC fund share class in Saskatchewan.
Innovative milestones achieved in the reporting period in the Innovation Class i-share investment portfolio include:
Librestream Technologies Inc., launched new versions of Onsight, a collaborative video software for smartphones, tablets, smart glasses, and computers, which drive greater workforce efficiency for commercial customers in diverse industries, including Fortune 500 companies such as CISCO, Proctor & Gamble, and Baker Hughes.
Solido Design Automation Inc., reported record-breaking revenues with growth of 50-70% each year over the past five years, and in 2016 doubled its sales and engineering staff from 25 to 50 employees. With several blue-chip customers worldwide including Nvidia, Broadcom, Cypress, IBM, ARM, and Qualcomm; and a series of new products coming to market, Solido is forecasting another year of record revenue and doubling its workforce to 100 employees in 2017.
Market acceptance of SuperiorRoads Solutions LP’s pothole patching technology continues to strengthen in North America, while launching a newly engineered version of the pothole patcher in Europe that will meet geographic specific safety and emission import standards.
The Resource Class R-share has a 100% weighting in oil and gas and its performance reflects the price of oil which remains as low as it was one year ago. Despite these challenges, the Class R-share’s net assets increased 10% from year-end August 31, 2016, as did the unit value by $0.05 per share due to a stabilization of portfolio company value in this low cycle. During the reporting period, no investments were made to new portfolio companies and capital deployed was limited to drawdown of commitments to Burgess Creek Exploration Inc. as strategic buying opportunities were identified in this unique market.
The results for this semi-annual period, despite a challenging economy, were positive. By investing capital in your province, Golden Opportunities Fund is creating and sustaining jobs at a time when they are needed most. Golden Opportunities is pleased that shareholder and government confidence in the asset class has not wavered. The Fund looks forward to continuing to grow the province and playing an instrumental role in the diversification toward an innovation economy.
The consensus of various commercial banks is that the forecast for growth in Saskatchewan is positive for both 2017 and 2018, which presents a strong outlook for the Fund. Thank you for your ongoing support of Saskatchewan’s first RVC Fund.
Grant J. Kook, C.Dir.,S.O.M.
President & CEO