Avoid Harvey Nicks, darling, it's too expensive

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The Independent Online
Absolutely fabulous figures are the reason for the spectacular debut of shares in Harvey Nichols, the upmarket Knightsbridge fashion store. Floated last week at 270p, they were issued at the top end of their expected range. Even so, they soared another 64p to close their first day at 334p on Friday.

Perhaps that was no surprise, given that they were oversubscribed 15 times. But are they worth a punt? The owner, Dickson Concepts of Hong Kong, has revitalised the loss-making store after a lacklustre spell under Burton's, but room for further growth seems limited.

Plans to take the Harvey Nicks concept to Leeds may work, but it is unlikely it can duplicate the success of the London flagship. Meanwhile the price demands great things. Overpriced, darling.

Expect news this week from TLS, the fast-expanding vehicle rental group. It will open two more branches to take the total to 18. New sites in London and Gateshead will be the company's first in the South-east and North- east.

The potential in London should be enormous. Increasing emphasis on the contract hire fleet should also help.

The shares, at 82p, have enjoyed strong growth this year, but there should be more to go for. With earnings per share likely to hit 9p in 1996, up from 7.9p last year, the shares are on an extremely undemanding 9 times earnings. Buy.

Northern Leisure (115p) is a fine example of how the leisure sector need not belong just to the big boys. Northern's strategy is simple: buy nightclubs in small towns where the big boys do not see the pickings, and benefit from the economies of scale inherent in a bigger group.

The company has identified more than 60 towns with possible locations where it can expand. Since February, it has bought another two clubs, taking to 23 the number it controls.

Its recent interims were at the top end of expectations. Pre-tax profit rose 55 per cent to pounds 2.5m. Yet, as broker Charles Stanley points out, the shares trade at little more than 12 times forecast earnings for the year to August 1996, and just over 11 times 1996/97 earnings.

Hardly the stuff of a high growth share, yet Northern looks set to carry on dancing ahead of the competition. Buy.

After the strong gains of the past few years, the arrival of chief executive Dieter Bock, and the objectives he set, shares in Lonrho (192.5p) may have peaked. His deal with South African Anglo American, for his 18.5 per cent holding, expires in September 1997. Until then, Anglo can buy Bock's shares at a price of 220p, or Bock can sell them to Anglo at 180p. Effectively, the deal creates a price cap for the shares. The action, as they say, looks to be over. Avoid.

PEGs, or the ratio of a company's price earnings ratio to prospective earnings growth, have been all the rage in recent years. They are one of the ever-more refined ways that stock market analysts have devised to predict a share's likely future performance. UBS, the stockbroker, in a recent note, has examined all the smaller cap stocks it researches, and compared their PEGs. Average earnings growth for 1996 is forecast to be 21.4 per cent, while the average PE of 14.7 gives an average PEG of 0.7. On this measure, the most undervalued stock in the UBS universe is Care UK. At 88p, the shares have averaged two-year growth of 31.8 per cent in earnings, but trade on a miserable 13 times 1996 earnings, or a PEG of 0.46, well below the average. Care has a strong position in the nursing homes sector and has good connections with health authorities. Buy, says the broker.

Celsis should announce the appointment of a new managing director for Europe this week as the company continues to focus its management on developing the alliances it believes will be crucial to its future success. Partners it has signed up for its microbial testing services include Colgate Palmolive and Procter & Gamble. The shares, at 112p, have enjoyed some spectacular gains, but there should be more to come.

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