No Pain, No Gain: Rentokil has yet to prove it can clean up the mess

Shares of Rentokil Initial have been a disappointing investment for the No Pain, No Gain portfolio. Although they have not slipped into the red since their recruitment in the summer of 2004, they have lagged behind the stock market and even suffered the indignity of relegation from the Footsie blue chip index.

I had hoped that by now the pest control to washroom services group, created in flamboyant style by the controversial Sir Clive Thompson, would be well on its way to recovering from the difficulties that provoked its fall from grace. But it is taking a long time to get the group motoring along the recovery road and there would appear to be little hope of progress until next year. Even this modest expectation must be cloaked in caution.

Last week it produced another set of uninspiring figures. Although income continues to grow, Rentokil is failing to translate it into profits and the pre-tax figure in the third quarter fell 3.6 per cent to £51.2m. With the French washroom business under the shadow of what could be a long running and costly competition investigation, it is not surprising that shares fell perilously close to the portfolio's 143p buying price. Then break up stories swirled around and they jumped to 155p before, at the time of writing, settling near 153p.

Since Doug Flynn was drafted in to revitalise the sprawling business, Rentokil has been reshaping. It has sold off bits and pieces, added small bolt-ons and flexed its muscles by acquiring more substantial operations. Now, following an investment presentation, there is a distinct impression it could be near to more disposals. One story is that the significant electronic security division could soon be sold; other deals could follow.

If such stock market thoughts represent Flynn's thinking, then a slimmed down, but more cost conscious and hopefully more profitable, Rentokil could emerge more quickly than had hitherto been expected.

Although progress has, on the surface, been rather slow, it is clear that Flynn has a tough task. As he says, the group was "organised on a rather eclectic mix of business activities and regional territories".

For years, under Sir Clive, Rentokil was a stock market darling with a Ballyhooed 20 per cent earnings per share growth record. Then cracks appeared. The shares offer a tantalising yield of near 5 per cent. But such a return will not offer much comfort to long term shareholders whose capital has declined alarmingly. Not so long ago the shares were around 500p - a level they will not recapture, even with a bid, in the foreseeable future.

The portfolio's other Footsie constituent, brewer Scottish & Newcastle, continues to make headway but cannot resist spraying a little caution around. Although the current year is unfolding as expected, it is worried about next year's smoking ban in England and Wales and weakness in France, where it has a substantial influence. In addition there is a "depressed consumer environment" on the home front. To counter increasing overheads, the only survivor of the once all-powerful "big six" of the British beerage will indulge in a new round of economies next year. It is already deeply involved in a £60m cost cutting exercise.

Scottish also offers a strong dividend yield and its shares are, as far as the portfolio is concerned, comfortably in the money. They are near 550p although they were once much higher.

The group remains a robust player but in my view it is takeover possibilities that make its shares such an attractive two-way bet. The world-wide brewing industry continues to consolidate and Scottish looks a prime bid candidate.

Georgica, in terms of size, is far removed from the Footsie. After touching 162p, its shares have slumped to 125p as tentative takeover talks ended and trading at its ten pin bowling centres and snooker clubs suffered from the hot summery weather, the World Cup and Scotland's smoking ban. The group made a £356,000 loss in its first nine months against an £819,000 profit for the same period the previous year. Property sales, however, pushed it back into the black.

Georgica expects to realise "substantial shareholder value" next year, an ambition that produced the take over approaches. I expect the ten pin and cue sports businesses to be sold or floated separately or, perhaps, off-loaded in bits and pieces. So far, the group has not lived up to its early promise.

cash@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

    £16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea