US legal cloud over Lucas lifts

INVESTMENT COLUMN

The headline number may have been a lot bigger than the market had hoped but what really matters about the conclusion of Lucas's row with the US government yesterday is that it is finally over. A total hit of pounds 95m will take the shine off full-year figures next Monday, but the cars and aircraft engineering group's new chief executive, George Simpson, will at last be able to stand up and talk about the future.

Since the beginning of 1994 Lucas has lagged behind its engineering peers, partly because of the cloud of litigation, partly because the market was holding fire to see just how quickly Mr Simpson could get to grips with his new charge. Over the past 18 months Lucas's shares have trodden water, marginally under-performing the market as a whole. Over the same period BBA has beaten the All-Share index by 43 per cent and GKN by an impressive 55 per cent.

The markets Lucas serves are undeniably still tough, but not worryingly so. Aerospace is picking itself off the bottom and arguably could be peaking in two or three years' time just as the automotive markets falter. Double- digit margins on sales of around pounds 500m should make most analysts' forecasts look conservative.

In motors, Lucas is heavily biased towards the UK and Europe, which is good news in the face of an expected downturn in the American car market. Relatively flat markets in Europe shouldn't be a concern, with Lucas holding strong positions in fast- growing areas such as diesel technology, intelligent braking and other electronics.

Before the exceptional charge, pre-tax profits next week should top pounds 140m, from sales of pounds 2.95bn, a great deal better than the performance of the last few years but still hardly a stirring return on sales of less than 5 per cent. By the time tax has wiped out the post-exceptional profit, earnings will just about break even, so reserves will have to be raided once more for a maintained full-year dividend of 7p.

The flip side of still-poor margins, of course, is the high degree of operational gearing still in Lucas's now-clean businesses. By next July profits should have reached pounds 215m, covering the payout twice. The cover could have reached three times by the following year.

That puts the shares on a prospective price/earnings ratio of 13, with a yield of 4.5 per cent. Given the recovery prospects, that is pretty good value.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam