The Week In Review: Smarter investors stay away
Saturday 04 March 2006
Will someone please take Alliance & Leicester over, if only to put an end to speculation that has become almost as predictable as the group's results.
The UK's seventh biggest bank has unveiled a tidy profit of £548m, up from £540m a year ago, and managed to increase the dividend a creditable 7 per cent, to 51.5p. But as far as the shares go, there seems little there to attract the smarter investor.
The bid gossip surrounding Alliance & Leicester has been around for ever. Management pretends to find it an irritation, but in reality it keeps the shares higher than they otherwise would be.
The City is getting tired of waiting for the takeover bid that never comes, and the shares look overpriced at almost 14 times forecast earnings. Sell.
The Chinguetti field off the shores of Mauritania has started to produce oil for the first time. This takes the group from being one of more than 100 resource explorers listed on the junior market to membership of the select club that actually produces oil. For any investor keen on exposure to oil exploration and production, Hardman should be a core holding.
This looks set to be another great year for recruitment group Robert Walters. The full-year figures saw the company register a 57 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £12.7m and a 12 per cent rise in the dividend, to 3.4p per share. By the end of the current year, analysts expect Robert Walters' profits to hit £15m. Buy.
The deregulation of Continental Europe's jobs arena is a great opportunity for recruiters and Hays is taking advantage. It has delivered a 40 per cent jump in the fees it earns from overseas operations. Last year it bought back £312m worth of its own shares. At 16 times forecast earnings for 2006, the stock is at a slight premium to the UK market but in line with peers. Hold.
Having disposed of both its closed life insurance book and UK financial advisory arm last year, Henderson's transformation into an uncomplicated fund manager is done. But what's next? A bid for rival Gartmore is fraught with problems, and medium-sized firms that have tried to be all things to all people in the past have not got far. Take profits.
If it was not for the performance of its US house building division the latest annual results from Taylor Woodrow would have been dire. Britain's third-biggest house builder managed a 2 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £411m thanks to a whopping 56 per cent jump in profits at its US operations. But now clouds are gathering for the company across the Atlantic, avoid.
Full-year profits from the food-casings maker Devro came in slightly below expectations. To blame was the fact the company had one fewer trading week in December. Still pre-tax profits rose to £25m from £18m previously. The shares trade at 14 times forecast earnings and are fairly priced.
Standard Chartered, makes over three-quarters of its earnings from Asia, has unveiled bumper profits for 2005 and a stiff hike in its dividend. At almost $2.7bn (£1.5bn), pre-tax profits rose 19 per cent last year after the £3.3bn purchase of Korea's SC First Bank began to pay off. Buy.
Alizyme shares are up nearly 50 per cent and were up again this week following positive trial data from the biotech's ATL104 treatment for Mucositis. ATL104 is not even Alizyme's most exciting product. Cetilistat, an anti-obesity formula, is widely talked of as a likely blockbuster. It also has a further two products on the way. While there is no guarantee that any of these drugs will actually make it, Alizyme should be a core holding for biotech bulls.
SHL Group is a world leader in psychometric testing. These are increasing used in the recruitment process of large companies so it is no surprise that SHL has unveiled solid results. Buy the shares.
Having spent many years disappointing the City, Arena Leisure has finally started to deliver for shareholders. Annual results from the racecourse owner revealed a 30 per cent jump in operating profits to £6.7m and a 10 per cent rise in sales. This is not a stock that is going to double overnight but should prove a good bet for long-term investors.
Logica is in the right place to cash in on global outsourcing
LogicaCMG has unveiled a 66 per cent rise in annual profits, thanks to the continued recovery in the IT services market last year.
The group, which provides IT services to business customers, has a great opportunity to outperform. Over the past year it has rapidly grown its ability to provide services from low-cost offshore centres such as its facility in Bangalore.
This should help it cash in on the growing trend among corporates to outsource their IT needs.
At 18 times forward earnings the shares are not expensive, but risk factors make Logica just a hold for now.
The above are recommendations taken from the daily Investment Column.
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This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
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.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
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 six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
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 Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
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.
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.