The Week In Review: Desperate dogs will eat anything

The stock market is starting to behave like an ill-treated dog. Ignore it, then throw it a bone and it will lick you all over – as in its enthusiastic reaction to a by no means exuberant trading statement from Character Group, the toys, gifts and games group.

The shares have been in the doghouse since the company had to withdraw a bead kit coated in a chemical that could act as a sedative. Although Character only distributed the product, the shares were caned.

But suddenly, summer has arrived. Character said that while the year's first half will be tough, it expects "substantial revenue growth" in the second. The finances are in good shape, with scope for buy-backs.

The company says retailers like some of the new products – which will be seen at this month's London Toy Fair – especially a Dr Who range. But with budgets tight, some children may not get what they want.

The firm's broker said it was "back on track", and the shares jumped 18p before settling for a 9p rise. On forecasts of £8m profits the shares sell on six times earnings – not expensive, but a bit early to be celebrating Christmas. Hold.


The leading credit checking agency has been in freefall since the credit crunch hit its major banking customers last summer. There appears little early prospect of a recovery in the share price, which took another knock this week.

As banks cut back on loans, the need for firms such as Experian to run credit checks has slowed.

The shares have fallen 40 per cent since last July, and it is probably still too early to buy for the bounce. Avoid.


ClinPhone, which provides computerised progress on clinical drugs trials, was sedated when problems led to cancelled orders last year. Shares crashed. Having overhauled systems and costs it is winning orders. The firm said third quarter revenue was up 18 per cent and results would be ahead of expectations. Brokers expect £1.2m. Orders remain strong, although shares need longer in the recovery ward. Hold.

Taylor Wimpey

Homebuyers are in their bunkers. Grim news for the UK's largest housebuilder, created out of last year's merger of Taylor Woodrow and George Wimpey.

It limped to the finishing line in 2007, making profits in line with expectations, according to a trading update this week, but it was a struggle. It is what happens next that matters. The company admits it would probably need two cuts in interest rates to trigger an early and meaningful recovery. Hold for now.

Northern Foods

After wiping 37 per cent off shares over the past year the market has granted the company a reprieve. The price edged up this week over talk that Northern is becoming a recovery play.

It still looks early for such assumptions, but the company said it is on course for profits of around £47m. Christmas sales rose 3.5 per cent. However, this was due to price increases from the soaring cost of ingredients. Supermarkets will resist such price rises. Avoid.


Travelzest is a holiday tiddler with dreams of becoming a big fish. So far, its ambitions have not been recognised on AIM, with the shares well below their 126p issue price of 2005.

But Travelzest has assembled an intriguing holiday portfolio. It is a niche operator insulated from sharp dips at the volume end of the trade. The shares look cheap at 8.7 times expected earnings. Hold.

Balfour Beatty

Fortunately for Balfour, the demise of London Underground contractor Metronet, in which it had a 20 per cent stake, came when signals were set at green for its other operations. A statement this week said 2007 results would be at the top end of expectations.

Brokers expect profits of £195m for 2007, rising to £214m this year, putting the shares on around 11.5 times earnings. This represents an attractive buying opportunity for a group with huge UK and international exposure.

Premier Oil

Rising energy prices are bringing misery. But oil companies are delivering buoyant results. Shares in Premier Oil, the exploration and development group, have risen 14 per cent in the past six months, happily tracking the rising price of oil and gas. Premier delivered a solid trading update this week which underpins an optimistic outlook. Buy.

Goals Soccer Centres

The five-a-side organiser is over the moon. Last year's profits followed forecasts and it believes the current year should prove another winner, with a further six centres due to open.

Goals, which floated on AIM in late 2004 at 62p, has exploited demand for organised five-a-side. Profits are set to rise to £9.5m in the current year while the shares trade on 20 times earnings. High enough.

Barratt Developments

Shares of housebuilders have been decimated in recent months. But perhaps a thaw is underway. A promising trading statement from Barratt sent the shares rallying this week. The firm traded satisfactorily in the six months to December with sale prices holding up. The shares are cheap but buyers should wait until the spring when clearer evidence emerges of housing sales. Hold.

Portland Gas

Proposals by Portland Gas to store natural gas on the Dorset coast and then pipe it to the local National Grid have proved controversial. The group, which was spun out of Egdon Resources this week, must now obtain a series of planning approvals, but refusals will hit the share price. However, that is the risk investors must take. Highly speculative.


Car dealer Inchcape is attacking emerging markets such as Russia, where sales are growing at between 30 and 40 per cent a year. This contrasts with the UK where sales grew at 2.5 per cent last year. Brokers soon expect the UK to contribute less than a quarter of group profits. The new international flavour to Inchcape has yet to be reflected in the shares. Now is the time to buy.

A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

    £850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

    Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

    £45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

    £250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

    Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

    £100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn