The Week In Review: It's not all clear blue water at Kelda
Saturday 27 May 2006
Kelda Group, the owner of Yorkshire Water, counts itself lucky not to have taken a bath over its investment in the US. This year, the group unveiled plans to sell its Connecticut-based water business, Aquarion, to Macquarie Bank for £491m.
Kevin Whiteman, Kelda's chief executive, said the company had made a tiny profit overall from the foray. This is pretty good going, given the hundreds of millions that UK utilities have lost recently by dabbling in the US market.
Profits after tax rose 16 per cent to £174m, but it is worth noting that this figure was flattered by new accounting rules that deflated Kelda's profits last year. And while there was also news of a 4.6 per cent rise in the dividend to 30.35p a share, Kelda is a conservative company. At current prices, the stock yields just 4.3 per cent. Investors looking for a high dividend would do better moving to United Utilities.
DE LA RUE
As the world's biggest printer of banknotes, De La Rue knows how to make money. It posted a 17 per cent jump in annual pre-tax profits this week, while highlighting the return of more than £103m to shareholders during the past year through share buy-backs. Hold.
LAND OF LEATHER
Despite the difficult conditions on the high street, Land of Leather managed to notch up an 18 per cent rise in profits last year to £14.3m. This figure beat City expectations and was driven by a 24 per cent rise in sales and improving profit margins. It was accompanied by a final dividend of 4p a share. Buy.
Emap owns consumer magazines, along with the UK's second biggest radio business, including stations such as Kiss and Magic. There is also a business-to-business unit. Now it is growing the group's digital operations. Revenues from the internet stand at £100m, according to this week's annual results, or 10 per cent of turnover, and Emap wants to double them over the next three years. Hold.
Topps Tiles shares recovered most of the heavy losses they suffered on Monday after a solid set of interim results later in the week. Pre-tax profits came in slightly ahead of City expectations, although at £20m they were flat on the previous year. Hold.
THE INNOVATION GROUP
Technology is changing the face of the insurance industry and TiG offers policy-management software to insurance companies. The growth prospects are good. Yet, trading at 12 times 2007 forecast earnings, this is not reflected in the group's valuation. Buy.
Results for the first six months of the year at conference and exhibition organiser ITE Group showed turnover growth of 15 per cent to £26.2m, along with £3.7m of pre-tax profits, comfortably ahead of the highest City forecasts. Hold.
Office space provider Regus now runs 750 centres in 300 cities across 60 countries and boasts customers such as Nokia, Google and ABN Amro. While not cheap at 15.9 times forecast earnings, the shares are worth a look for those willing to take a risk.
Soft drinks group Britvic has had two profit warnings since its December float. This week, it told investors that full-year results would miss forecasts and the stock hit an all time low of 170p. It has since rallied and the shares are underpinned by a 4.5 per cent dividend yield, which is two times covered, and strong cashflows. Buy.
Moss Bros has had several makeovers over the past three years and is now focused on selling fashion gear to young men, though it still carries ranges for City gents. Profits have recovered but, trading at 16 times forward earnings, the shares stand at an unjustified premium to peers.
Unlike most in the biotech sector, BTG is now in a position to generate cash. Key to the near-term performance of its shares will be the timing of a licensing deal for its varicose veins treatment, Varisolve. An announcement is expected before the end of 2006. When it is finally unveiled, BTG shares should rise sharply. Buy.
The above recommendations are taken from the daily Investment Column.
At last a brighter forecast for Royal & SunAlliance
Royal & SunAlliance's chief executive, Andy Haste, must have fewer sleepless nights than his predecessor. At this week's AGM, he told shareholders that "2005 was a good year for the group" - and it was.
Since taking the reins three years ago, he has sold off the group's life-assurance business, closed all operations in the US to new business, and repositioned RSA to focus on growth areas that carry less risk.
For a long time, the City wouldn't touch RSA shares, leaving them floating between 80p and 100p until the end of 2005. But with the sale of the US commercial motor-insurance business at the end of last year, they have finally begun to recover.
Not only does the business look less risky, but the company could even be an attractive takeover target. Its More Than retail brand is exceeding expectations, and all open parts of the business are profitable in spite of a challenging market. There are rewards for buyers, if with a degree of risk.
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