The top-performing Canadian tech stocks of 2016

2016 might not have been the greatest year for the world at large, but it was a fine one for the Canadian tech industry, if financial website Cantech Letter’s latest compilation of the TSX’s 10 top-performing tech stocks is any indication.

Calling 2016 good, but not great, for the industry, Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell noted that while consistently delivering better returns than any other sector, tech “never truly shines – or at least it hasn’t yet.”

“The 2016 theme in Canadian tech was no theme at all,” he wrote. “Most of the names below moved the old-fashioned way, on the back of better numbers.”

So without further ado, here are Canadian tech’s highest-performing (by percentage, not necessarily value) TSX stocks in 2016.

1. Intrinsyc Technologies Corp. (TSX:ITC)

Price on December 31, 2015: $0.89
Price on December 12, 2016: $2.00
Overall Gain: 124.7 per cent

Waddell attributes Vancouver-based Intrinsyc’s rise to good old-fashioned rising profits – the company announced first-quarter revenue growth that was 90 per cent higher than the year before in May, and 20 per cent third-quarter growth in November, with CEO Tracy Rees suggesting more was to come: “The Company enjoyed record order bookings, led by record hardware orders, and ended the quarter with an increased order backlog in both product development services and hardware,” Rees said. “With our increased sales order backlog, strong opportunity pipeline, and several new product development initiatives underway, we are positioned for a strong finish to the year, with a solid foundation for future performance.”

2. NexJ Systems Inc. (TSX:NXJ)

Price on December 31, 2015: $1.75
Price on December 12, 2016: $3.25
Overall Gain: 85.7 per cent

NexJ founder Bill Tatham sold the original J, CRM platform developer Janna Systems, to Siebel Systems in 2000 for $972 million. Though NexJ had trouble living up to its predecessor’s success after Tatham took it public in 2011, 2016 finally brought relief, Waddell wrote, thanks to the company spinning off its healthcare business unit into NexJ Health Holdings Inc. and third-quarter results that reported a year-over-year revenue increase of 22 per cent.

3. International Road Dynamics Inc. (TSX:IRD)

Price on December 31, 2015: $1.45
Price on December 12, 2016: $2.52
Overall Gain: 73.8 per cent

The first of four 2015 winners to reappear on this list, shares of Saskatoon-based intelligent transportation systems developer International Road Dynamics have been rising since May, Waddell wrote, and are likely to continue doing so, given the company’s still-unique focus on helping companies adapt to exponential growth in the number of drivers and vehicles on the road, even as additions to global highway infrastructure have barely budged.

4. Norsat International Inc. (TSX:NII)

Price on December 31, 2015: $6.10
Price on December 12, 2016: $10.32
Overall Gain: 69.2 per cent

This data transmission technology firm’s stock began rising when investors learned it might be sold, Waddell wrote: In September, Norsat reported receiving multiple “indications of interest,” including a cash offer of $8.00 per share from Privet Fund Management LLP. At the time, however, company executives said they had yet to establish a timeline however, and according to Waddell Norsat has been flat ever since.

5. D-Box Technologies Inc. (TSX:DBO)

Price on December 31, 2015: $.365
Price on December 12, 2016: $.57
Overall Gain: 56.2 per cent

Like the movie industry itself, this repeat winner can attribute much of its success in 2016 to the growing Chinese filmgoing market, with at least one analyst saying that D-Box’s current efforts to expand its unique brand of immersive viewing into Chinese theatres are helping increase the size of its global footprint not only in Asia, but South America as well, Waddell wrote.

6. Shopify Inc. (TSX:SHOP)

Price on December 31, 2015: $35.60
Price on December 12, 2016: $55.38
Overall Gain: 55.6 per cent

The list’s third repeat winner, and still its best-known, Ottawa-based Shopify has had a great run since last year’s initial public offering, which saw the tech darling’s stock price rise from $17 to more than $28 on its first day of trading, but at least one analyst believes it has further to go, arguing that when taking revenue growth into account Shopify’s stock price appears particularly inexpensive compared to other U.S. and Canadian SaaS stocks (an expected 30 per cent through 2018 versus its peers’ 20 per cent), Waddell wrote.

7. Tucows Inc. (TSX:TC)

Price on December 31, 2015: $29.96
Price on December 12, 2016: $46.55
Overall Gain: 55.4 per cent

Calling domain registrar Tucows “a 90’s kid that graduated” (its name is an acronym for The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software), Waddell praised both the company’s reinvention – it’s also “dabbling successfully” with mobile phone service and fixed internet access, he noted – and its profitability, illustrated by its recently-delivered record-setting third quarter.

8. Firan Technology Group Corp. (TSX:FTG)

Price on December 31, 2015: $2.37
Price on December 12, 2016: $3.65
Overall Gain: 54 per cent

For the fourth repeat winner on this list, Waddell cited the prescient words of Paradigm Capital analyst Daniel Kim, who in April 2015 – when FTG’s stock was trading for nearly forty per cent less than it is now – said the company was well supported on multiple fronts, with key customers such as Airbus and Boeing likely to increase orders for the company’s circuit boards, and a geographical shift to Asia leading to potential year-over-year growth of 25 per cent. The reality, as it turned out, was much higher.

9. Calian Group Ltd. (TSX:CGY)

Price on December 31, 2015: $16.16
Price on December 12, 2016: $24.79
Overall Gain: 53.4 per cent

Noting that Ottawa-based Calian has been pushed by analysts for years, including by his own publication in 2011, Waddell was pleased to finally see the professional services provider have its day in the sun in 2016, driven by a strong fourth quarter that pushed its earning to $275 million, its best year ever. According to CEO Kevin Ford, the company’s contracts are now worth $488 million, providing a solid foundation for its future.

10. Exfo Inc. (TSX:EXF)

Price on December 31, 2015: $3.85
Price on December 12, 2016 $5.51
Overall Gain: 43.1 per cent

Shares of Quebec City-based radio frequency and fiber testing solutions provider Exfo started taking off in August, bolstered by the company’s $8.25 million acquisition of California-based fiber-based radio access network developer Absolute Analysis, Waddell wrote. According to Exfo CEO Germain Lamonde, Absolute’s technology will help Exfo – and its partners – by adding new services and capacity to its radio access networks, in addition to helping prepare for 5G mobile Internet and the Internet of Things’ further expansion.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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