Walk into any branch of Boots and chances are that the pharmacy’s own-brand anti-viral hand foam will be on prominent display.
Hand sanitiser is today’s must-have item, products are flying off the shelves and Boots is still limiting sales because of high demand.
All hand-cleansers are not created equal, however. Many only work for a short period, some are anti-bacterial, so are not guaranteed to have an impact on the coronavirus, and most are alcohol-based, which can irritate the skin, especially for people with conditions such as eczema.
Rash move: Many sanitisers are being withdrawn as they are irritants or ineffective, but Byotrol’s are used by the NHS
Boots foam is long-lasting, works on both viruses and bacteria and is alcohol-free. It is produced by Byotrol, a fast-growing AIM-listed company based in Chester.
Byotrol shares are 5.9p and have risen sharply since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted. But there is plenty more mileage in the stock, as attitudes towards hygiene shift and regulations tighten across the sanitisation sector.
The industry is vast. According to independent consultants, global sales of antiviral and anti-bacterial products total about £50billion a year – including sprays for kitchen counters, office worktops, factory production lines and hospitals.
Byotrol operates within a small slice of that market, but its products are backed by rigorous scientific research and highly regarded by customers such as Boots, the NHS and Rentokil.
Rigour is increasingly important in today’s environment. US regulations have been extremely tight for years. Now the European Union and the UK are catching up, imposing restrictions on ingredients that may aggravate the skin, harm the environment or make exaggerated claims about their efficacy.
Several firms have already had to withdraw products from the market. Others are expected to follow.
Byotrol is well placed to benefit in this climate. Chief executive David Traynor studied geography at Oxford and spent the early part of his career in banking, but he has surrounded himself with high-calibre scientists and invests heavily in research and development.
That means Byotrol scores well with regulators and customers. In America, for instance, Byotrol was the first company to obtain regulatory approval for a long-lasting germ-killing spray, Byotrol 24.
Procter & Gamble subsequently launched a rival, but Byotrol was there first and the spray is so popular that it has temporarily sold out in the US market.
Most of Traynor’s sales are in the UK, however, and here the company focuses on four areas – hand sanitisers, workplace cleaning goods, sprays used in GP surgeries and hospitals, and animal health products.
Just as in the US, demand has been soaring across the board. Every company knows they have to ensure workspaces are as germ-free as possible so that employees can feel safe as they return to the office or manufacturing site.
Surgeries, care homes and hospitals are more intent than ever on maintaining strict hygiene.
Even pet owners are becoming more conscious of animal health.
Byotrol sells sprays that disinfect areas where pets have been and eliminate odours from dog baskets and such like.
Vets use Byotrol disinfectant to make sure their surfaces are clean at all times. The group even makes lavender-based shampoo for the retail group Pets at Home so pooches can smell sweet and stay germ-free.
Byotrol also produces its own brand of hand sanitiser, Invirtu, which is also alcohol-free and a big hit with specialist retailers.
Byotrol’s financial year runs to March 31 and audited figures will be published in a few weeks’.
Over the past few months, however, Traynor has issued three buoyant trading updates, each one prompting an upgrade in stockbrokers’ forecasts.
Analysts now expect turnover of £6million for the year to March 2020 coupled with a small loss, as surplus cash was ploughed back into the business.
For the current year, sales of £11.5million are forecast, alongside profits of £1.5million.
Looking ahead, group prospects are bright. Tougher regulations are curbing supplies of sanitisation products, while Covid-19 has provoked a step-change in demand.
Byotrol has fared well with policymakers to date and is looking at environmentally friendly products for the future, such as cleaning solutions using seaweed, which apparently has antiviral properties.
There are even suggestions that insurers might insist on certain approved products being used in workplaces, before offering policies to business customers.
Midas verdict: Byotrol has made strong progress this year but the best is yet to come. Traynor has established a strong board too, a six-person team including an ex-AstraZeneca vice-president and two former senior directors from Unilever. At 5.9p, Byotrol shares are a buy.
Traded on: AIM Ticker: BYOT Contact: byotrolplc.com or 01925 742000