The Week In Review: Cheers! Pub group has bubbly future

Hardys & Hansons was created from the merger of two family owned brewers in 1930, and the clans still control it through voting shares. As a result, it has a low stock market profile, but the company has not performed dissatisfactorily.

Hardys & Hansons was created from the merger of two family owned brewers in 1930, and the clans still control it through voting shares. As a result, it has a low stock market profile, but the company has not performed dissatisfactorily.

It is an old-school mixture of brewing, pub and restaurant assets, including more than 250 pubs concentrated in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Of its venues, it manages about a third directly, with the rest rented to tenants. While its cask ale has declined in popularity, the company has moved with the times and puts on a very strong food offering at its community-focused venues.

The annual meeting yesterday was told that the company is having to absorb higher minimum wage costs and utility bills, but that was nothing new. Nor was the warning that growth from new properties will be a little lower this year because of the difficulty in finding good-value sites. Shareholders can take comfort that it will not overpay for acquisitions.

Indeed, its properties are very conservatively valued on the balance sheet, and there is scope to increase pay-outs to shareholders beyond the current dividend. Buy.

RECKITT BENCKISER

Reckitt Benckiser's results are as sparkling as a glass cleaned with its Finish PowerBall dishwashing tablets. The reputation of Bart Becht, chief executive, is as fragrant as a room freshened with its Airwick click spray. And the investors who have repeatedly called the top of its extraordinary share-price rise are left reaching for the Disprin. Investors who hop aboard now are paying a full price, for sure, but this is a vibrant consumer goods company with bid potential. Hold.

BAA

BAA owns seven UK airports, including the giant Heathrow, where it is three years away from unveiling a fifth terminal to accommodate the inexorable rise in air travel. That project is on time and on budget, while more immediate financial trends within the group also continue on the correct flight path. Hold.

CAMBRIDGE ANTIBODY TECHNOLOGY

Investors are paying a high price for the imagination of Peter Chambré, the biotech's chief executive. Imagination? Chambré needs to find an innovative way of spending his £159m cash pile. Buying in drugs that are already mid-way through human trials is the most obvious way forward, but so many companies are hunting for precisely the same thing so prices are high. New investors should wait.

EMBLAZE

Emblaze's main activity is making mobile phones for retailers in the Far East, and it is planning to enter the European market soon. It also has stakes in software companies with products offering television over telecoms networks and picture messaging. Its customers are spending again and it has a tighter grip on costs. Worth a punt.

ELAN

Three new products ought to drive growth at Elan. Tysabri is a remarkable new treatment for multiple sclerosis, which might have sales of $3bn a year when it becomes well-established. Prialt, for chronic pain, was also launched last year. And then there is work on its potential new Alzheimer's disease drug, which has suffered setbacks but could come to fruition around the end of the decade. Hold.

ALPHAMERIC

Bookies like to monitor how much cash is piling on to certain horses throughout their network of betting outlets, so they can narrow their odds. Alphameric is doing well as a provider of sales software to the betting industry. If only it hadn't taken such a gamble on providing software to the retail sector. It needs a better track record before we could recommend it. Avoid.

BRANDON HIRE

Brandon Hire has been renting out tools and building appliances to the construction industry for the past 35 years. Today, with 130 stores - 32 of which were acquired last year - it has a 6 per cent market share and growing. Fast. Buy.

MCBRIDE

McBride, the Buckinghamshire-based households goods group is the force behind the supermarket own-label products, behind products such as Asda toothpaste, Tesco washing powder and Sainsbury's bleach. The 6 per cent increase in half-year profits to £17.5m on sales also up 6 per cent at £268m that McBride achieved suggests it is capable of squaring up to its customers. But the shares are fully valued.

CORUS

Occasionally, a company that had appeared so troubled it looked as if it was about to go bust can transform its fortunes. Corus, the Anglo Dutch steel-maker, this week received a little more good news when the Competition Commission cleared a deal to sell its UK hot rolled steel business to Arcelor. Corus shares have bounced back sharply from the lows of 2003 but remain worth holding.

easyJet rising above turbulence

Cheese-and-pickle sarnies are off the menu on easyJet flights, replaced with tomato, mozzarella and pesto baguettes. With the company flying between an increasing number of destinations in Europe, the UK-centric menu was failing to appeal to the bulk of the no-frills airline's customers.

These little things are vital to an airline's financial health, when winning business in this cut-throat segment of the travel market depends on keeping the headline ticket prices as low as possible. By getting customers to buy more in-flight, or by insisting on excess baggage charges, the company has limited the decline in revenue per passenger. The winter fare war was not the "bloodbath" predicted, but investors will always need a strong stomach if they want to fly easyJet. Other areas of potential financial turbulence this year include fuel costs, which have risen sharply because of the rise in the oil price.

But don't forget the bigger picture. This airline is one of the great British entrepreneurial creations of the past few years. It flies 95 aircraft between 190 destinations and 58 airports, and we are many, many miles from a limit to the available growth in Europe, both in potential new routes and in higher frequencies of flights.

It is too early to say if easyJet will perform well over the Easter break, but the longer-term outlook is strong. Buy.

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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower