James Moore: Spotting the winners in this summer of sport
Investment View: Bookies see the Olympics as an opportunity to reach a whole new breed of punters
The Olympics will soon be upon us, hot on the heels of the European Football Championships. But who might actually make some money out of this year's "summer of sport"? Here are a few suggestions.
JD Sports/Sports Direct
Traditionally do well in years when there is a major football tournament thanks to replica shirt sales. The low expectations for England this time might dampen fans' ardour; traditionally supporters go into tournaments convinced that England will win despite all evidence to the contrary; this time not so much. All the same, it will only take one half decent performance to perk things up. And maybe the low expectations will work in England's favour.
It's not only England shirts and apparel, though. Both could benefit from sales of Olympic-related merchandise, especially if British athletes do the business in terms of medals. And then there is the possibility of sales of kit as people are inspired to take up sport, at least for a short while. Consider the way tennis courts, which stand all but empty in the run-up to Wimbledon, are virtually impossible to book during and after the tournament.
We made JD one of our 10 to follow when the shares were at 624p at the beginning of the year. At 685p last night, they're now comfortably ahead of that, although they have come off a bit in the last month or two. Trading at just 7.3 times this year's earnings, while yielding 3.8 per cent, they remain an easy buy.
With Sports Direct you have to put up with some eccentric governance and the fact that the shares aren't anything like as cheap at 12.6 times 2013 earnings, yielding just 2.4 per cent. But the discounter is in the right spot. People wanting merchandise cheap will flock there. It's a tougher call, but buy.
Goals Soccer Centres
Rioting and Ramadan (falling in the summer) were blamed for somewhat poor sales at Goals last year, which pushed the shares off a cliff. Summer is always a difficult time for the group because the teams who use its facilities struggle to find players to replace those on holidays. They may not be helped in June if people stay home to watch the European Championships, but the "Wimbledon" effect of the sport on the telly inspiring people to play may benefit it before the year is out.
Goals makes a virtue of its competitive pricing, a wise move in these recessionary times. The shares certainly recovered with remarkable speed, but at nine times forecast earnings they aren't overly expensive.
Despite being relatively small, Goals also offers a yield. At a forecast 1.5 per cent, its nothing to write home about, but the fact that it is there speaks of a company that is being run with the right sort of ideas in mind. I'd be inclined to take a punt on these shares. By the end of the year they should come good. And use any signs of weakness as an opportunity to jump in.
The Olympic flame has already burnt William Hill, which has always had a neat line in novelty bets. The bookie offered odds of 100-1 on it going out. Ooops. While that's painful on the pay-out front, the publicity generated is priceless (even I'm writing about it).
Generally there has been some debate over whether the Olympics will tickle punters' fancy. It's never been a big betting event previously. But this year might be different. Why? It's on home territory for starters. Then there is the opening up of advertising markets to bookies. Watch out for a promotional blitz. Bookies see the Olympics as an opportunity to reach a whole new breed of punters. They might be right.
William Hill has long been my sector tip. It was one of our 10 to follow at 202.8p and the shares, now at 269.4p, have done us proud. But they still aren't expensive at 10.5 times this year's forecast earnings, yielding a healthy 4 per cent.
Ladbrokes, meanwhile, at 10 times, yielding 5 per cent, is a shade cheaper with a few questions out there over its strategy, especially digital. But both should do well. And the football will have punters pouring in, although don't expect a patriotic (and losing) plunge on England this time round. Other options include Paddy Power and Betfair, but both trade on fancy valuations which needs to be borne in mind.
Pubs or supermarkets?
Enterprise Inns has high hopes for the summer of sport. And the Euros should bring drinkers out, at least while England are in (and in Scotland they'll turn out to cheer the opposition). However, the Olympics may keep people at home. So it might be best to steer clear of pub companies, particularly those like Fuller Smith & Turner. It has a great product and is well run, but its portfolio is weighted towards London and the South-east, which is usually a good thing but not if the Olympics keeps people out of the capital. Others such as Enterprise and Punch have burdens of debt. And with the economy as it is, the companies most likely to benefit from sports fans' enjoyment of a beer while they watch? Look to the supermarkets.
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