The Week In Review: Aegis rides out slump in advertising

Aegis, the media buying and market research group, ticked all the right boxes when it announced annual results for 2004. It was another good performance from the company, adding to a five-year track record of revenue and dividend growth, despite the worst advertising recession in memory. That slump is over and 2005 looks like being another strong year, adding to 2004's 15.1 per cent increase in revenue to £747m and a pre-tax profit figure of £63.9m compared with 2003's £48m. The dividend has been raised to 1.45p a share, and like-for-like revenue growth was up 8.4 per cent. However, Doug Flynn is leaving as chief executive and is being replaced by Robert Lerwill.

Although he doesn't like people mentioning it, Lerwill was previously a senior member of the management team that saw Cable & Wireless brought to its knees. The fundamental strengths of Aegis have not changed, so investors should hold their shares. It is probably worth waiting to see how Lerwill performs before adding to shareholdings.

GLISTEN

If you've got a sweet tooth, shares in Glisten, the confectioner, should have given you a sugar buzz over the past six months. Growth has come predominantly from small, bolt-on acquisitions. With obesity and eating healthily a growing pressure in daily life, cereal and energy snacks are becoming a popular alternative to chocolate bars. It also has a Fair Trade range. Buy.

CLOSE BROTHERS

Even though regulatory costs in banking have risen and markets have yet to recover fully from a downturn, Close Brothers, the banking group, demonstrated that it can still deliver solid results. Asset management was the star performer in its first half, driving 17 per cent profit growth in investment banking while the mainstream banking division struggled. Worth buying for the group's broad exposure to financial markets.

McCARTHY & STONE

McCarthy & Stone's formula, of building blocks of retirement flats complete with all mod cons, has been a licence to print money over the past decade. The company is confident of another decent year. Its shares have soared one-fifth since this column advised hanging on to them a year ago. But with a real risk that transaction volumes will slow, investors should lock in gains.

GOSHAWK

A spate of natural disasters made 2004 a bad year for insurers. Goshawk, the Lloyd's of London insurer, paid out $40m (related to the four hurricanes and 10 typhoons that hit Florida, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and Japan last year. That led to a $13m second-half loss that completely wiped out first-half profits and resulted in an annual deficit of $3m. Goshawk will not be paying a dividend and its strategy remains unproven. Avoid.

CARILLION

The construction company Carillion is enjoying good times. That is hardly surprising as it specialises in the Private Finance Initiative, through which this government has pumped billions of pounds. The company's order book stands at £5.0bn, with further "probable orders" of £2bn. Carillion reported an 8 per cent rise in annual underlying profits to £54.7m. The shares have done well but are still worth buying.

IP2IPO

Investors with a taste for risk and who want to tap into the latest money-making opportunities in new technology need look no further than an investment fund that seeks to commercialise business ideas from British universities. The company's share price has soared since its float last year but it should be able to go on in the coming years and achieve further successes. Buy.

HEMSCOTT

Hemscott. the financial information group has gone for broke in the US, where it bought two financial data groups in a complex deal that handed control of the company to the private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson. The shares have yet to top the 55p that VSS paid for its majority stake and until Hemscott can assure investors it hasn't bit off more than it can chew, look unlikely to do so. Avoid for the next 12 months.

GOURMET HOLDINGS

On top of a handful of Richoux restaurants Gourmet Holdings now has six pub-restaurants that go by the name of Bel and the Dragon. It will spend the next six months sprucing up all of its sites. The group has pledged to double the number of its Bel and the Dragon sites and should have enough cash to do so. A risky buy.

ROYAL & SUNALLIANCE

The reshaped Royal & Sun-Alliance insurance group has bounced back with better-than-expected profits, a general stabilisation of premium rates and plans to further scale down its troubled US business. After a rough few years for shareholders, things are starting to look up for the pure general insurer. RSA is delivering better results but some major risks remain. Hold.

Profit up and debt down for TNS

Not content with bombarding Western consumers with ever more varieties of "new improved" shampoo, chocolate, cigarettes and soft drinks, consumer goods companies have moved deeper into the new markets of the developing world. This is good news for Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), which provides the sort of market research that companies rely upon when entering new markets or trying to come up with new products.

The market research sector enjoyed phenomenal growth in the 1990s, as its services were snapped up in the booming corporate spending of that decade. Even in our more restrained times, growth in this sector of the media industry looked considerably more healthy than prospects elsewhere. Underlying revenue growth was 4.1 per cent higher or 17.4 per cent in absolute terms after TNS enjoyed the first full year as owner of NFO. Operating profit was up 28 per cent, operating margins increased and debt was down. It reckons that the market will grow at between 4 and 6 per cent in the medium term, driven by expansion in emerging markets.

As a specialist in this sector, TNS does not suffer the distractions and conflicts of interest of some of its rivals that are part of bigger media groups. An attractive business, but at 236.5p, the shares already trade on a forward multiple of 17 times, which means that further upside is limited. Hold.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
News
David Ryall in Harry Potter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

    Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015