Sun, 21 Sep, 2014

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Tue, 17 Jun, 2014
Shares in RBS have barely budged year-to-date. However, come August 1st, when Chief Executive Ross McEwan presents the bank´s halfway figures, he will be able to boast that progress is being made. Firstly, he is extracting the lender from its Ulster Bank subsidiary, even if the value attached to that by some may be over exaggerated. As well, the flotation of about a quarter of its Citizens arm Stateside is on track to take place this autumn. Similarly, the EU-mandated flotation and disposal of 312 Williams&Glyn´s branches should begin by 2016. All of the above may come on top of the £1bn in cost savings promised for this year.
Sun, 15 Jun, 2014
Whitbread looks like a reliable investment despite the imminent departure of Chairman Anthony Habgood, Matthew Goodman said in the Sunday Times's Inside the City column. The company was a mess when Habgood took over in 2005 but he has sold peripheral businesses to focus on Premier Inn and Costa Coffee. Some analysts fear Costa has reached saturation point but Barclays thinks Whitbread shares could rise from £42 to £70 as it starts to reap rewards from overseas investment. A second, cheaper hotel brand called Hub could also ease worries about growth prospects. The stock could pause for breath but it looks like a decent long-term bet.
Fri, 13 Jun, 2014
The Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS has shot itself in the foot with its actions in the north of Iraq. While Baghdad´s hand in the region has always been weak that is not the case with the well-organised Kurdish fighters, who are more than a match for those from that radical islamist movement. This means that the oil industry in the Kurdish region, where some London-listed outfits have their operations, is now safe. Furthermore, ISIS move means that Baghdad will find it increasingly hard to pressure Kurdistan politically, or otherwise.
Thu, 12 Jun, 2014
It's crunch time for Flybe as it prepares to start flights from London City airport starting in October, as part of a five year deal. The above are projected to account for half of the company's growth in commercial flights. That comes as the firm prepares to launch additional holiday routes to Spain, France and the ski regions this year.
Wed, 11 Jun, 2014
Oil rig operators in the US are going all-out, drilling non-stop seven days a week to hit their targets. That is very good news for Weir Group. The company derives 40% of its sales from the oil and gas sector, with the bulk of that coming from America, where it has a strong position manufacturing the pumps used in 'fracking' or non-conventional oil. Now Societe Generale believes that capacity shortages will begin to appear in the industry from the start of 2015. Furthermore, the relentless pace of activity means that the company´s pumps can wear out up to three times faster than normal, which will benefit its aftermarket business.
Tue, 10 Jun, 2014
Analysts like hedge-fund manager Man Group´s drive to diversify away from its flagship AHL fund - the core of the new managemeant team´s strategy. The best example of this better balance are the successful negotiations with regulators so as to be better able to employ the group´s cash reserves now that its assets under management have decreased. Since it simply does not need as many it is using them for some strategic purchases. If late last month it acquired Boston-based rival Numeric, with $12.5bn under management, yesterday it was the turn of Pine Grove Asset Management, which sits on top of another $1bn. Just as important, the firm has also stopped haemorrhaging investors' cash at its other units, all the while slashing costs and restructuring the business.
Sun, 08 Jun, 2014
Be wary of Home Retail's revival, Danny Fortson advised in the Sunday Times. The owner of Argos and Homebase has surprised investors by turning itself into a click-and-collect powerhouse, combining online sales with Argos's branch network. First-quarter trading numbers should be strong on June 10th. But in his Inside the City column Fortson said Argos does not sell anything distinctive leaving rivals to emulate its move into bricks and clicks. Home Retail trades at a 20% premium to its competitors. Rising labour costs in China, where the company spends more than half its cash, could also dampen the revival.
Fri, 06 Jun, 2014
A bid for Smith&Nephew does indeed seem possible, at least according to market pricing. Should a 'knockout' bid finally come through that could send the stock as high as £15, or should one fail to materialise as low as £9. Closing yesterday at £10.89 the current stock price seems to be implying about a 50% chance that some sort of bid will indeed appear - not a bad guess. However, despite yesterday's gains it is unlikely to come from US outfit Medtronic, who was reportedly the third potential party interested in the British firm, alongside Stryker and Johnson&Johnson. Simply said, buying Smith&Nephew exclusively on the basis of potential tax savings does not seem to make much sense.
Thu, 05 Jun, 2014
Packaging manufacturer RPC's financials have two main drivers: macroeconomic trends and its success in moving away from what it calls 'commoditised packaging' in search of higher margins. On the first of those fronts, its markets in the Eurozone saw some recovery, such as in Spain, the UK and in the Nordic countries. As for the latter, after an acquisition last May the firm managed to begin to diversify away from the single currency area, which up until then had provide up to two thirds of its business.
Wed, 04 Jun, 2014
Pennon has the potential to be very profitable. Its South West Water unit is an oasis of tranquillity. Its reported pre-tax profits increased by 10.8% last year and its application for the next five-year regulatory period which starts in 2015 has been fast-tracked - in effect removing any regulatory risks. In parallel, the company is nearly three-quarters of the way through the spending necessary for its new rubbish incinerators, to create power from waste, to come on line. Once completed analysts expect they will more than double cash profits at its waste recycling and land-fill unit Viridor within the next three years to more than £100m.
Tue, 03 Jun, 2014
Imperial Innovations' decision to raise up to £150m may be a golden opportunity for investors. The shares are tightly held but existing investors in the group have decided that the placing will be non-pre-emptive. That means new shareholders will be allowed in, including retail ones should there be sufficient interest from brokers in the space - which would improve liquidity in the stock. More importantly, the firm allows investors the possibility to enter a wide variety of exciting businesses at an early stage. One such undertaking, Circassia, which makes treatments for cat allergies, has just floated on the stock market. At 415p the shares do sell at a hefty premium to their net asset value, which is 255p. Nonetheless, it's "one to tuck away for the very long term, if you can," says The Times' Tempus.
Sun, 01 Jun, 2014
Buy shares of Genel Energy, Danny Fortson urged in the Sunday Times's Inside the City column. The oil explorer sold a tanker of crude from Kurdistan last month for the market rate of more than $100 a barrel. Previous sales have been below the Brent crude price because of lack of infrastructure and political tension in Iraq. The sale is ahead of Chief Executive Tony Hayward's timetable and increases the chances of him paying a special dividend from Genel's $600m cash. Genel's shares have barely risen this year but things could be coming good for the company.
Fri, 30 May, 2014
Kingfisher has been doing some of its own home repairs of late and it was sorely needed. The firm, under boss Sir Ian Cheshire, recently offloaded its German operations - over which it was unlikely to gain full control - and is attempting to buy-out French rival Mr.Bricolage. If it can generate sufficient cost savings then the latter operation may be worthwhile. In parallel, he's making better use of the company's space. Both initiatives are necessary to prop up the company's return on capital. At 10 per cent that is half of rival's Home Depot.
Thu, 29 May, 2014
"Know thyself." That was the maxim of the Oracle of Delphi and Finnish mining equipment manufacturer Metso might be well advised to heed the proverb. Having recently spun-off its paper business, Valmet, management thinks it needs more time to communicate its strategy. In the meantime, it has spurned a takeover offer from Scottish peer Weir Group. In fact, it refused to simply even discuss the proposal. That comes despite a sweetened offer that would have tacked on a third to its undisturbed share price. More importantly, their high-margin after-market services and the latter's speciality in automation could make a good fit. Furthermore, cost savings could increase earnings by a fifth, says broker Liberum.
Wed, 28 May, 2014
Shares of AstraZeneca continue to trade well above the price at which they were at before Pfizer came along - 37 pounds. However, it seems implausible that investors are still holding out on hopes of another bid coming through. Rather, it is probably a reflection of the ambitious growth targets which the company has set itself. Its Chief Executive, Pascal Soriot, is looking to grow revenues to more than 45bn dollars by 2023, versus 25.7bn dollars last year. That comes even as the company is set to face a "patent cliff" which will see some of the more important compounds which it markets lose patent protection.
Sun, 25 May, 2014
United Utilities faces regulatory wrangling and rising interest rates, making its shares no better than a hold, the Sunday Telegraph's Questor column said. The water company has reported rising profits, strong cash flows and dividend increases linked to inflation. But in future it is up against a regulator that could push for a harsher settlement on prices while equity could be squeezed when interest rates rise and increase the cost of United's £5.5bn debt. With shares close to their all-time high, now is not the time to buy.
Sun, 25 May, 2014
Intercontinental Hotels has turned down a 6bn pounds takeover approach from an unnamed investment fund, the Sunday Times reported. The approach is said to have been made in the last three weeks but the board thought it was too low to consider. City sources think the group could now be a target for a US hotel company looking to move its tax base to the UK. Starwood Hotels, the £15bn owner of chains such as Holiday Inn and Le Meridien, is the most likely to make an approach.
Fri, 23 May, 2014
Electrocomponents and its smaller rival Premier Farnell are worth closely following. Since they distribute a range of electronics goods to engineers, a third of which are used in the development of new products, they are good bellwethers for the economy. Therein lies the rub. While international sales were up over the last year those to UK clients declined by two per cent. Continental Europe was particularly strong, with revenues up by four per cent.
Thu, 22 May, 2014
Predicting the price of Great Portland Estates is no mean task, but things are looking up for the company. In effect, it is akin to trying to anticipate the London property market. Amongst the main parameters to take into account, London´s gross domestic product expanded at a 3.8 per cent clip over the year to March, twice the rate of the UK as a whole. In parallel however, the rate of office completions, even when looking out to 2018 will still not reach the levels seen in 2008 and 2009. In part, this is because there is a limit to the number of properties which can be developed into offices.
Wed, 21 May, 2014
Shares in the UK's largest tile and wooden flooring specialist, Topps Tiles, have not escaped the sell-off which has laid many small company shares low since the start of March. As the company explained to investors on Tuesday, however, it has enjoyed a 'good start' to the second half. Boosted by higher levels of consumer confidence the firm's like-for-like sales for the seven weeks ending on May 17th grew by 5.6 per cent, versus a drop of 2.6 per cent during the comparable period of last year.
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