The Week In Review: Halfords promises to step up another gear
Friday 06 April 2007
Forget the 426 stores Halfords has already clocked up in the UK and Ireland. Watch it go as it taps its expansion accelerator. It has shrunk its stores to open mini "neighbourhood" Halfords and is also building a national chain of cycle shops under its Bikehut brand.
It reckons there is scope to expand into Europe, where spare car parts are big business in countries such as the Czech Republic. It opens its first store in Prague this summer and sees the potential for up to 50 more in other towns across central Europe.
So far it has just two standalone Bikehut outlets - in Brighton and Putney, London - but it reckons it could easily open 50.
A trading update this week showed that like-for-like sales in the year to 30 March surged 6 per cent, which was better than expected. Some of this growth is down to its inclusion of mezzanine floors but even so Halfords is a business firing on all its cylinders. Buy.
HSBC for once has some good news: the Chinese authorities have allowed Britain's biggest bank to incorporate in the country, making its goal of doubling branches in China easier to meet. Unfortunately, compared with its continuing problems in the US, this is barely a straw in the wind. Given the US uncertainties, this remains one to avoid.
Severfield-Rowen, which makes steel frames for big property developments, has made a profit in every year since it was founded in 1977 apart from a one-off deficit in 1992-93, a year when the UK economy was in deep recession. Last year was no exception: pre-tax profits for the year to 31 December, 2006, soared 54 per cent to £30m. Sales rose 24 per cent to £295m. Take profits.
HAIKE CHEMICAL GROUP
It is little wonder that HaiKe Chemical Group is doing well. The bulk of the company's earnings come from refining crude oil into gasoline and diesel in China. Demand for its output easily outstrips supply and should do so for years to come as China's economy continues to expand. Trading at seven times forward earnings, buy the stock.
Evolution Group surprised many when it acquired rival stockbroker and fund manager Williams de Broe in June last year. But the deal added £1bn to funds under management at the broker, taking the total to £2.2bn. According to this week's annual results, Evolution made a profit of £2.2m in 2006, and this figure is expected to rise to £5m by the end of the year. That's good going. Hold.
Speedy Hire shares have nearly doubled over the past two years. Since this column last tipped them - back in May 2006 - they have added 40 per cent. Despite these gains, now is no time to think about baling out. The latest trading statement from the building equipment rentals group shows there is no sign of growth in the business slowing - sales for the first 11 months of its year soared by 34 per cent. Hold.
The school supplier-to-home shopping group Findel now has a decent internet presence and this week's pre-close trading update revealed that more than 40 per cent of the division's sales would be online this year. Product sales are 5 per cent ahead of last year and it has grown its customer base to 1.5 million. Two acquisitions unveiled with the update will take Findel into two new markets: supplying products to independent schools and supplying wheelchairs to the healthcare sector. Good value.
Michael Page shares roared 3.4 per cent higher to a fresh all-time high this week. The reason? Steve Ingham, the recruitment group's chief executive, summed it up perfectly: "In all countries, without exception, we are currently experiencing strong levels of client activity." The shares now trade at around 20 times earnings, compared with an average of 16 times for peers. But as market leader, Michael Page deserves its premium. Buy.
Just over six months ago Armour Group, the home and in-car electronics companies, put out a dire set of annual results. In the wake of these figures Armour shares stood at just 39.5p. This column took the view that the group's chairman, Bob Morton, would not allow it's underperformance to go on for long and urged readers to buy. This week's interim results from Armour showed we were right. The figures revealed a 44 per cent jump in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) to £3m thanks to a solid performance by all divisions. Hold.
SCOTTISH & NEWCASTLE
Shares in the UK's biggest brewer have been rising steadily since the end of March, gaining on speculation that trade rivals, Heineken SABMiller or Carlsberg, were eyeing up the company. However, brokers have now poured cold water on the takeover heat. Both ING and Dresdner Kleinwort have downgraded the stock and say a takeover is unlikely. Sell.
Shares in the Warrington-based manufacturer of cables used for aircraft, consumer electronics and agricultural machinery this week took a knock on the back of its guidance that it would miss forecasts for the year to 1 April as a result of high copper prices and a weak US dollar. But prospects for all of the company's divisions, particularly the power-cords business that is set to benefit from new products such as Apple's iPhone, are good. A recent contract win with Rolls-Royce should underpin its momentum. Buy.
The mid-sized housebuilder Bellway is to stay out of the consolidation fever gripping the sector, if it can help it. The company says it does not need a tie-up - it has just landed a £1.2bn deal with Leeds City Council, to develop 5,000 new homes and community facilities. Bellway's convincing point is that bigger isn't always better. While Persimmon is a well-regarded company, profit margins at Barratt, Taylor Woodrow and Wimpey are all significantly below the 19 per cent reported by Bellway at its last results. Buy.
The above recommendations are taken from the daily Investment Column
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
Money roundup video: Warning for mortgage borrowers and Premium Bonds boost
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool