BUY Laird Group says Sandy Morris, NatWest Securities' engineering analyst. "Laird has a substantial amount of new work and new capacity coming on stream," he says. "We believe that a premium to the sector is justified, but they stand on a 12 per cent prospective discount." Full-year results on Tuesday should show pre-tax profits up from £33.1m to the £46m forecast at the time of November's rights issue. That money is to be committed to expansion, including takeovers. At 323p, the shares yield 4.2 per cent. Buy.
THE RECENT strength of PizzaExpress has attracted the attention of Richard Marshall, the chart sage at Investment Research. He says: "The chart shows that the shares have held up well over the past year, despite a setback in the market generally.
"The price is poised to move higher and a new bullish leg looks capable of taking the shares to 180p over the next year."
At the current price of 134p, that looks tasty. The yield is only 2 per cent, but the shares are selling on a prospective p/e ratio of 17 - modest enough for a company that is producing a high-quality product in pleasant surroundings, with good scope for expansion as we tend to eat out more. Buy.
DESPITE its long-term prospects, this looks time to sell shares in Highland Distilleries, the Famous Grouse whisky group. The price has fallen from 445p to 383p in the past six months as the company made an historic decision to join the Christmas UK price-cutting war. Rightly or wrongly, that was seen as an admission of brand weakness in a company that had hitherto seemed impregnable. And this year, it faces the uncertainty of a relaunch of its deadly rival, Bell's. Half-year figures tomorrow should show a modest rise, but the shares are on a stiff p/e ratio of 17.5. Avoid.
OMNIMEDIA'S just-completed £2.25m share placing has thrown up two tasty new shareholders: Global Fund Managers and Perpetual Unit Trust, each taking 10 per cent of the £6m CD-ROM software house. Its shares are traded in London under Stock Exchange Rule 4.2 for matched-bargain tiddlers. Nevertheless, OmniMedia has become the first such company to obtain an ADR listing in the United States. It is planning five new CD-ROM games this year, to be distributed through Sony. Philips sells its video CDs. At 74p, the shares remain an act of faith, but the quality of worshippers is growing.
ABBEY National shares look to be recovering after their almighty hiccup last year, as the housing market slowly recovers and the group diversifies away from mortgages. The latest outcrop, announced on Friday, takes Abbey into the burgeoning bureaux de change business with a 33 per cent stake in Travelex. That should be a sign of further such deals, which will make Abbey an altogether more exciting prospect. At 473p, the shares yield 4.7 per cent and are selling on a miserly 8.6 times earnings. Nomura Equity Research sees pre-tax profits rising by 16 per cent to £1.08bn this year. Buy.