Derek Pain: Findel and Booker lead the way with some peak performances

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The Independent Online

I imagine every share tipster likes to see at least some of their selections riding at around their peaks. For a time disasters can be forgotten and it is possible to concentrate on some of the winners.

Two of the members of the no pain, no gain portfolio have recently underlined their reputations with some fine trading displays. One constituent is near its 12-month high; the other not so very far from its all-time record level.

First Findel is a group embracing home shopping and educational supplies.The shares, as I write, are near their highest price for a year at 308.75p.

The portfolio descended on them at the equivalent of 142p in November 2012. It turned out to be a lucky month as Essenden arrived around the same time and its shares have recently topped 100p against a 24p buying price.

In a trading update Findel reveals that sales have risen by 5 per cent during its past year, although two of the divisions suffered negative performances. Group pre-tax profits, however, are substantially ahead and it is anticipating that margins will increase from 4.6 per cent to some 6 per cent. Last year, adjusted profits emerged at £15.5m. This year the City expects the figure to be up to £22.5m

The two main operations – Express Gifts, a mail-order business, and education supplies – chalked up impressive sales gains. Express advanced 9.7 per cent and the education side, supplying equipment to schools, by 6.2 per cent. But doorstep seller Kleeneze suffered a 5.4 per cent decline and Kitbag, offering sports merchandise, lost 4.5 per cent.

Still, Kitbag's performance is improving and it should benefit when the World Cup gets under way.

Findel is still very much a recovery play. It has been brilliantly turned around by its present management.

The shares once topped 3,000p; the company's last dividend appeared in 2008.

My other top performer which is reporting progress is Booker, the cash-and-carry chain. Although the shares have lost some ground after a trading update, they are still the stars of the portfolio.

Recruited at 24.5p more than five years ago, the price is 155.1p compared with a recent all-time peak of 175p.

With supermarket shares shrouded in gloom, there had been worries that Booker, relying on corner shops, pubs and restaurants, had suffered a similar fate.

I am used to Booker shares making headway following trading reports. This time, though, they failed to respond positively. Yet the sales figures were not at all bad.

During the final 12 weeks of the year, Booker's volumes were up 1.9 per cent and, including the Makro acquisition, 16.3 per cent. For the year, total sales advanced to £4.7bn, up 17.3 per cent.

I suppose some were disappointed that Booker's own sales advance was not as sharp as last year's when the shares were around 120p.

So excluding the Makro contribution, progress has slowed. But with the integration of the Makro chain on track, I suspect the group will make considerable headway in the current year. And shareholders can look forward to a windfall. The group, with a £150m cash pile, intends a distribution to shareholders. It aims to spread around £60m, presumably as a special dividend, when announcing its year's figures.

Finally, there is Avation, which intends to lease two aircraft to a new customer, UNI Airways of Taiwan. The share price is now 112.5p, against the 83.5p the portfolio splashed out in January 2011.

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