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COMPANIES, politicians and policy wonks are often at odds but they are in almost unanimous agreement on one point – the UK needs more technology geeks, scientists and engineers. Trade bodies suggest that firms are suffering from a shortfall of more than 170,000 workers in these fields, a skills gap that costs the economy around £1.5 billion a year.

Gattaca is a recruitment firm specialising in the so-called STEM sector – science, technology, engineering and maths. The stock is trading at £1.24, the company is in the middle of a turnaround programme under chief executive Matthew Wragg and the price should increase as his efforts bear fruit.

Gattaca’s customers include defence giant BAE Systems, oil major Exxon, luxury carmaker McLaren and Network Rail, all of which need battalions of skilled engineers and technicians. But the company also works with firms including Harrods, Specsavers and TripAdvisor helping them with IT, software and cyber security.

Some companies are looking for permanent staff. Often, however, these are supplemented by contractors, who can come on board for weeks, months or years to complete specific projects or assignments.

Gattaca sources both permanent and temporary workers for its customers. The group has amassed a database of 1.8 million trained professionals and helps more than

10,000 of them a year to find employment.

Matching the right person to the right job can be tough in any industry but the task is even greater when workers are being placed into major defence and infrastructure projects which demand specific skills or IT assignments upon which entire companies depend.

This is where Gattaca comes into its own. The group spends time training recruiters so they understand the fields they are working in and can speak the same language as their customers. The business turned 40 this year, a milestone in the recruitment industry. The past four decades have had their ups and downs, however. Having enjoyed success as a privately owned firm, Gattaca joined AIM back in 2006 at £1.19 a share. By 2014, the stock was trading at more than £6 but the business then lost its way, making acquisitions, amassing debt and pursuing deals even if they were unprofitable.

Wragg was appointed last year to deliver some much-needed change. The appointment was unusual. Wragg has worked at Gattaca and its best-known subsidiary Matchtech for 22 years, starting as a trainee consultant and working his way up from there. But the board reckoned Wragg’s experience was just what Gattaca needed, particularly as he had worked with four previous bosses and learnt from their mistakes.

Early signs suggest that the board were right. Profits soared last year, the dividend was reinstated at 2.5p and the group added another 2.5p payment as a special dividend to reward patient investors.

There should be plenty more to come. Profits for the year to July 31, 2024 are expected to increase by 15 per cent to £3million, soaring to £5 million in 2025. A dividend of 3.4p has been pencilled in, though another special dividend could be on the cards.

Further gains are likely in 2025 and beyond. Wragg is intent on sloughing off low-value contracts and focusing on more lucrative parts of the market where firms need specialist advice and support. Costs have been trimmed, the business has been streamlined and Wragg has been working hard to ensure employees feel motivated and part of the team.

Estimates about future growth are deliberately conservative. But there is plenty of cash on the balance sheet, staff retention is growing and the business operates in areas where there is a constant demand for good people.

Traded on: AIM Ticker: GATC Contact: or 01489 898989

MIDAS VERDICT: Gattaca shares have come down sharply from their 2014 highs and are just fractionally above their flotation price more than 15 years ago. Sentiment has begun to change however and should continue to do so. At £1.24, the shares are a buy.

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