The Week In Review: IMI cuts jobs to lay the foundations for the future

This week, IMI announced 500 job cuts but also posted a solid set of annual results. Profits rose 21 per cent to £194m, beating City expectations. Sales grew 12 per cent to £1.5bn. In the year ahead, the group plans acquisitions worth £100m and has earmarked a similar figure for a share buyback programme. Buy.

FIRST CHOICE

The City had been hoping First Choice would be able to sell its underperforming short-haul business to either Thomas Cook or MyTravel. But investor hopes were dashed last month when Thomas Cook and MyTravel agreed a £2.9bn merger and ruled themselves out as buyers of the asset. Avoid.

PREMIER FOODS

Pre-tax profit for 2006 at Premier rose to £56m from £51m in the previous year, while sales grew 22 per cent to £959m. Given its shares have one of the lowest ratings in the sector and the highest yield, they are worth tucking away. Buy.

CRH

Annual results from building materials group CRH this week made great reading for investors, particularly on the dividend front. The group raised its payout by a third to 52 cents a share on the Dublin exchange. Despite the gains its shares have made, now is no time to be taking profits. Hold.

NEUTRAHEALTH

It is from the fast-growing food supplements market that NeutraHealth is looking to make money. And, judging by the full-year results from the AIM-listed group, it is already doing rather well. Worth a punt.

JARDINE LLOYD

Jardine Lloyd Thompson, the insurance broker, certainly looks a much steadier ship than it did 12 months ago, but the risks still more than outweigh the potential upside. The 5 per cent dividend may prove enough to attract income-hungry investors, but this is otherwise one to avoid.

IDEAL SHOPPING DIRECT

Ideal Shopping made an excellent start to 2007, enjoying a 20 per cent increase in sales in the first two months and a 12 per cent improvement in its margin. A look at its balance sheet and valuation make it even more exciting. Buy.

THE RESTAURANT GROUP

With four businesses - the Italian-American themed Frankie & Benny's, the Mexican-style Chiquito, along with Garfunkel's and Blubeckers. Predominantly located at airport and out-of-town leisure parks, the company is avoiding the highly competitive and overcrowded high street. Buy the shares.

BALFOUR BEATTY

The construction group has registered a strong advance on all measures. Pre-tax profit rose 13 per cent to £152m. Sales increased 20 per cent to £5.9bn. The group's order book soared in value by 20 per cent to a record £9.1bn. Hold.

AGGREKO

Aggreko, the world's biggest provider of temporary power plants this week posted a 47 per cent jump in annual profits, said that 2007 would end up being a better year than expected and boasted that the major acquisitions it completed in December are already proving to be a big success. Hold.

AXIS-SHIELD

Share price: 230.75p (+1.25p)

Medical diagnostics kit maker Axis-Shield had a testing time last year, but sales were still up 5 per cent to £60.8m and pre-tax profits at £2m compared to £1.9m in 2005. Buy.

UMBRO

As long as England make it to the 2008 European Championship in Austria, Umbro should make a profit of £31.5m next year, leaving its shares trading at just nine times forward earnings. That is too cheap. Buy.

These recommendations are taken from the daily Investment Column.

m.jivkov@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

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