Tue, 27 Jan, 2015


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Fri, 04 Jul, 2014
Investors in Balfour Beatty have had a bad time of it of late. The UK construction group likes big, complex projects but during the recession the appetite for those was understandably curtailed. Hence, the company went after low margin work. The result is that while its UK engineering services arm generates only 3% of the firm's revenues had it not been for asset disposals the company's pre-tax profits would have taken a 20% hit.
Thu, 03 Jul, 2014
In recent times construction and support services firm Carillion has been reducing its UK construction business so as not to have to take on just any low-margin work going. While sensible that resulted in cash outflows and a fall in its share price towards its dividend level, potentially signalling for some that its pay-out might be in danger. Yet that was not the case, as it turned out. As well, the Middle East market has improved since the collapse of the Dubai property bubble and in other hot-spots, with more work around now in the run up to the World Cup in Qatar and the possibility of the Expo being held in Dubai come 2020.
Tue, 01 Jul, 2014
Steer clear of McBride. The private label household products outfit yesterday announced the exit from unprofitable product lines in the contract space, where it makes products for the likes of Procter&Gamble and Unilever. That will send contract revenues plummeting by 20% in the year to the end of June. On a more positive note, its own-label products saw flat revenues in the first three months of the year, as encouraging growth in the likes of France, Germany and Poland offset weakness in the UK.
Sun, 29 Jun, 2014
Shares in Kurdistan-focused Gulf Keystone Petroleum are notoriously volatile. In large part that can be put down to its enthusiastic following among retail investors. Another important factor has been the long-running speculation that it could be the target of a take-over bid. Speculation in that regard was stoked last year by a court ruling which confirmed its ownership of the giant Shaikan field. More recently, just last week in fact, its founder Todd Kozel's decision to step aside was seen by some as laying the ground for an acquistion.
Fri, 27 Jun, 2014
Banks partaking of Barclays' 'dark pool' should have known the risks they were taking. To say that such trading venues are un-transparent simply does not cut it, they are supposed to be, hence the name. Even so, if the allegations brought forward by the New York state attorney-general are correct then the fact is that the lender did indeed behave badly. For one, the prosecution puts forward the argument that whereas Barclays' marketing material pegs the amount of "aggressive" trading in its dark pool at 6% in one meeting the bank put the figure at 25%.
Wed, 25 Jun, 2014
South Africa's platinum miners yesterday reached an agreement to end a five-month long labour strike - the third longest in the country's history within that industry. However, while in this instance labour seems to have scored a victory over those who believe in the inevitable march towards increased automation investors in Anglo American are in fact betting that its platinum operations will be employing far less people in the future. Thus, the share price has moved higher by a tenth year-to-date despite the fall seen in the price of iron ore.
Tue, 24 Jun, 2014
Despite the recent sharp run-up in the price of Shire's stock investors should resist the urge to take their money and run. In the first place, it is entirely possible that AbbVie will come back with a higher offer that obtains the approval of the board of Shire. To take note of, any fresh bid from the American company will need to be substantially higher than its last, perhaps even as high as £55 per share, according to one analyst. Hence, as long as the possibility of another offer from AbbVie continues to exist investors should stick around. On the other hand, the company may decide to stick to its plans and go it alone. That would not be such a bad thing if it sticks to its pledge of doubling sales by 2020, even if its plans are not without risks. As well, there is scope for Shire itself to carry out acquisitions, to which one must add the benefits of the company's two most recent purchases.
Sun, 22 Jun, 2014
Steer clear of shares in Debenhams, Questor advised in the Sunday Telegraph. There was no repeat of the December 31st profit warning when the department store group published its trading statement on June 20th. Trading was in line with expectations. But Debenhams has damaged its brand by repeatedly cutting prices. Opening up stores to Sports Direct concessions looks confused. Add in the company's high debts and the shares are best avoided.
Fri, 20 Jun, 2014
Shares of oil major Shell are running near the top end of their recent trading range. Nevertheless, they are still attractive, according to The Times' Tempus column.
Thu, 19 Jun, 2014
At an 8% dividend yield shares of Berkeley Group pose a bit of a puzzle to investors. Usually such a high yield signals that the market has doubts about the company. On the other hand, however, its shares trade at nearly twice the net asset value, which is as silly a valuation as it is expensive.
Wed, 18 Jun, 2014
After rising strongly so far this year shares in rental equipment company Ashtead have came off despite the company having delivered an apparently sparkling update. To a degree that is probably down to profit-taking. From a more fundamental point of view, investors are probably asking themselves what might go wrong. The most typical worry is over-investment, of which there have been instances in the past. However, its hire fleet is now the youngest ever, as customers prefer. On the one hand, that means the firm can now reinvest for growth, instead of just replacement, and get ahead of its rivals.
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.