The Week In Review: Smarter investors stay away

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.

HARDMAN

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.

ROBERT WALTERS

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.

HAYS

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.

HENDERSON

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.

TAYLOR WOODROW

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.

DEVRO

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

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

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

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.

ARENA LEISURE

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.

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

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones