The Investment Column: Take profits at DIY group Travis

Avoid Carter & Carter for a little while longer; Tune in to Autonomy's new software for TV

The shareholders of Travis Perkins, the builders' merchant, voted to approve its £950m purchase of Wickes yesterday. The deal moves Travis from its traditional focus on sales to the tradesman, into the bigger and faster growing DIY market. Will the acquisition prove a piece of successful craftsmanship or a bodged job?

The shareholders of Travis Perkins, the builders' merchant, voted to approve its £950m purchase of Wickes yesterday. The deal moves Travis from its traditional focus on sales to the tradesman, into the bigger and faster growing DIY market. Will the acquisition prove a piece of successful craftsmanship or a bodged job?

Buying Wickes is a decent next step for a company that was close to meeting its target of winning a 20 per cent share of the builders' merchant market and on an operational level, you wouldn't bet against it being a success. Travis has an awesome reputation for integrating its acquisitions, doubling earnings per share in the last five years by snapping up smaller players and squeezing the benefits that come from being able to buy supplies such as timber, bricks, tools and everything else in bulk. It has promised £35m in annual savings from the Wickes deal, mostly in purchasing.

Yet the deal has increased the risk profile of Travis shares. The company has previously fought shy of the DIY enthusiast, who takes up more time and spends less. Different management skills are required. And the deal comes just at the moment that Frank McKay, the chief executive for five years, heads into retirement. Geoff Cooper, his replacement, was respected as a director of Alliance UniChem but has no form in this industry.

Then there are the risks attached to the DIY market Travis is entering. The proliferation of Changing Rooms-style programmes on TV tempts one to believe this market will grow forever, but it is highly correlated to the housing market. If stagnant house prices mean fewer people moving home, then DIY retailers could struggle. As a relatively small player, Wickes will suffer if its rivals launch a price war to compensate.

And finally there is the question of the share price, which has sky-rocketed since the Wickes deal was unveiled. It can't all be justified by the extra earnings that Wickes will bring in, and the stock has now passed all but one analyst's target price. This looks a good point for shareholders to lock in profits.

Avoid Carter & Carter for a little while longer

Take your car for its service back to your local Audi, Volvo, Citroen or Peugeot dealership, and the mechanic who does the work may well be an employee of Carter & Carter, the car industry training and sales support company that began trading on AIM yesterday.

C&C is paid by the Government and car manufacturers to train car technicians through 42-month apprenticeships. They are popular courses. Some 17,000 applied for its 2,200 places last year. The long-term nature of the programmes give the company a reliable income stream and there is room for more manufacturer-branded training schemes.

C&C also supplies salesmen to car manufacturers who can sell spare parts and accident repair services. These kind of after-sales services are becoming increasingly important in a rather flat new car market.

The company is promising bolt-on acquisitions and an aggressive dividend from its high cash generation. But Philip Carter, founder of the business, sold £7m in the flotation, which never inspires confidence. At 295p, up from the float price of 235p, they appear to be on a forward earnings multiple of around 16 times, which looks expensive for now. Wait for a few more miles on the clock before taking a ride.

Tune in to Autonomy's new software for TV

We are getting close to an age in which viewers will be able to create their own TV channel. The advent of broadband means telecoms and cable companies can offer programmes and clips on demand, but much work is still to be done in the behind-the-scenes technology. How will the viewers' request for, say, all the latest Michael Jackson news clips, be sorted? Autonomy, the software company, has one answer, unveiling a new version of its complex search engine software yesterday which, thanks to speech recognition and other skills, can recognise and categorise programmes and clips. It is already working with some cable firms and third generation mobile operators, and sales could start to come through from next year.

The company's search software is used across government agencies and multi- national companies to access information across e-mails, computer desktops and documents. Last year, sales were $64.8m, up from $54.9m in 2003. Software spending has snapped back after the post-Millennium downturn. Autonomy was first in and first out of that downturn, since it simply sells licences to its customers - there are no ongoing service revenues to cushion the blow when times are hard. Now, though, those additional sales are feeding through immediately into profits, and pre-tax profit was up 12 per cent to $8.6m.

Even before the TV software kicks in, prospects for this year are strong. Corporate IT spending continues to grow, existing blue-chip customers are likely to order additional licences as Autonomy software proves its use, and product upgrades are being launched. The shares are worth holding.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'