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easyJet plc EZJ made a good start to the 2019 financial year with robust customer demand and ancillary sales.At least that is the official version. Flying at Tegel had what is described as a dilutive impact. as did the Christmas drone incidents at Gatwick, or perhaps more accurately, the Christmas no drone incidents at Gatwick. The Chief Executive is proud of the way the teams worked around the clock to mitigate the impact of the incident and looked after affected customers. Total revenue in the first quarter to 31 December 2018 increased by 13.7% and passenger numbers in the quarter were up by 15.1% to 21.6 million. Unusually for easyJet load factor decreased by two percentage points to 89.7% and total revenue per seat was down by 4.2%. So perhaps when you get into the real statistics where the company usually does shine, on a comparative basis, things were not quite as robust as at first appears, with. more empty seats and a nearly 5% fall in spend per passenger.
Dixons Carphone plc DC produced record sale in the 10 week Christmas period to the 5th January and did so against a strong backdrop. UK & Ireland like for like sales rose by 2% whilst group like for like only managed a 1% rise. Mobile sales in the UK and Ireland look to have been a disaster area with reported revenue down by 12% but that does not seem to matter too much because it was expected. As usual international revenue did well with a 5% rise and accounted for almost 40% of sales. Good progress has been made with what it describes as its long term plans to deliver more engaged colleague which may appear to mean that it has woken up to the fact that customer service level can be fairly abysmal, just try paying for something in Greece. The outstanding performance came from Gaming, up 60% year-on-year.
IG Group Hldngs plc IGG Net trading revenue for the six months to the 30th November fell by 6% whilst operating expenses rose by 4%. Operating profit declined by 18% and basic earnings per share by 16%. Not surprisingly revenue in in 2019 will be lower than in 2018. The Chief Executive is excited to bring his experience in strategy and product innovation to the company but his confidence is not such that a return to growth is expected until after 2019.
ZOO Digital Group plc ZOO updates on current trading for the year ending 31 March 2019.The second half performance has been affected by the loss of a single, material project, Revenues from DVD and Blu-ray titles in the second half will be significantly lower than anticipated because the overall market decline has accelerated more quickly than envisaged. he Company now expects revenues for the second half to be comparable to those in the first half and approximately 10% below full year expectations.Nonetheless the company’s excitement for the future remains undiminished.
Dixon Carphone DC has plenty to fix but it is all fixable, claims the new CEO. The first thing which seems to need attention is next years profit which is expected to slump from this years expected £382m to £300m.The dividend for the current year is being maintained at 11.25p per share. Growth in the UK & Ireland has seriously lagged behind the rest of the Dixons empire with like for like full year growth at 2%, falling to 1% for the fourth quarter. The Nordics and Greece tell a different story with full year like for like revenue up by 9% and 11% respectively, whilst quarter four produced rises of 8% and 10%. Must be many years since Greece thrashed the UK in a major retail market.
Smiths Group Medical SMIN has announced that it is in the very early stages of discussions about the combination of its medical division with ICU Medical Inc.Smith claims it routinely reviews all its options.
Redstone Connect plc REDS The year to the thirty first January saw strong revenue growth of 15%, EBITDA rising by 60% and adjusted profit before tax increasing from £1.3m to £2.4m. Since the year end the sale of the Systems Integration & Managed Services Division for a total consideration of £23m will allow the group to focus on delivering and growing its software division.
Dixons Carphone plc DC claims that its international businesses had a “terrific” Xmas but as is so often the sad story of late, the UK lagged far behind. In the 10 weeks to the 6th January, the star of the show was Greece with a like for like sales rise of 23%, followed by the Nordics with 11%. The UK and Ireland came last with a 3% rise compared to 6% for the company as whole. Looking forward management asserts that it is keeping its antenna twitching.
Computacenter CCC describes 2017 as a year of great progress and it is now anticipated that adjusted pre tax results will be ahead of the Boards expectations, which have already been upgraded on a number of occasions during the year.Group revenue rose by 12% on a constant currency basis but the UK produced the best quarter 4 growth seen for a number of years, with a rise of 16% just ahead of the Germans with 15% and France with 13%.
Aveva AVV is ahead of revenue expectations for the time of the year, having put in a strong performance for the nine months to the 31st December. Improving growth trends seen in the first half of the year have continued into the third quarter with Asia putting in a particularly strong performance and similar improvements have through into January.
AnimalCare Group ANCR Revenue for the year to 31st December was slightly ahead of expectations with a revenue rise of 9.5%, 10.9% on a like for like basis. The integration with Ecuphar which was acquired in July is going well.
Strix Group KETL maintained its clear market leading position during 2017 with a global volume share of some 39%. Results for the year to 31st December are expected to be in line but particularly strong cash flow should produce a significantly improved net debt performance.
by Ken Baksh
Ken has over 35 years of investment management experience, working for two major City institutions between 1976 and 2002.
Since then he has been engaged as a self-employed investment consultant. He has worked with investment trusts, unit trusts, pension funds, charities, Life Fund,hedge fund and private clients. Individual asset managed have included direct equities and bonds pooled vehicles currencies, derivatives and commodities.
Projects undertaken in a number of areas including asset allocation, risk control, performance measurement, marketing, individual company research, legacy portfolios and portfolio construction. He has a BSc(Mathematics/Statistics) and is a Fellow Member of the UK Society of Investment Professionals.
Phone 07747 114 691
January 2018 Market Report
During December, major equity markets displayed an upward trend, assisted by well flagged Central Bank actions and statements, a quieter political mood, and the tail end of a generally upbeat third quarterly corporate reporting season. The European Central Bank continued to move, as expected, to a gradual tapering mode, amidst some very strong economic data releases while there was additional political “noise” from Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. US market watchers negotiated the Federal Reserve (both rate increase and change in Chairman) as well as the last-minute passage of the Tax Reform Bill. In the Far East, Chinese authorities stepped up regulatory action (specifically the financial sector) while Japan recorded and another quarter of relatively strong GDP growth. Aggregate world hard economic data still showed steady expansion, excluding the UK, as confirmed by the IMF and the OECD with some forecasts of 2018 economic growth in the 3.5% to 4% area. Fluctuating currencies are playing an increasing role in asset allocation decisions, the near 14% move in the USD/Euro over the year being a good example. An American investor into Germany has seen a currency adjusted annual return of approximately 25%, some 20% higher than the other way around!
Global Equities rose over December, the FTSE ALL World Index climbing by 1.94% in dollar terms. The UK broad and narrow indices outperformed over the month while underperforming the World, in sterling terms, over the full year. Emerging markets had a relatively strong December thus completing a full year return of nearly 35% in dollar terms. In sterling adjusted terms Germany and Japan led the year-to date returns, amongst the major markets, followed by the USA, although the tech-heavy NASDAQ, Asia ex-Japan, and Emerging Markets all showed yearly gains of between 25% and 35% in local currencies. The VIX index ended the year at 10.26, a fall of around 25% over the full year.
Sector volatility during the month was high, mining outperforming utilities by about 15%. Over the full year, mining shares (the best performing major sector) have outperformed utilities (the worst) by approximately 40%. Within the overall UK fund universe over 2017, smaller caps outperformed larger stocks, and the difference between active and passive performance was much smaller than that experienced in 2016.Within the broad UK All company sector, investment trusts outperformed unit trusts by about 3.5% over the full year. The average IA mixed investment pooled fund (40%-85% shares) delivered a total return of about 10% in 2017.
Gilt prices showed marginal gains over the month, the ten-year yield finishing the month at 1.23%. Over the full year gilts showed a price decline of about 1%, thus delivering a total return of about zero. Other ten-year yield movements were mixed, American, Japanese and German ten-year yields ended December at 2.43%,0.05% and 0.43% respectively. UK corporate bonds rose slightly in price terms over the month and outperformed gilts over the full year. Amongst the more speculative grades, there were mixed trends, with emerging market bonds, in local currency terms, having a better month and US high yield hardly moving. Convertible bonds dropped slightly during the month but rose about 6% since the beginning of the year and I expect this outperformance over gilts to continue. See my recommendations in preference shares, convertibles, corporate bonds, floating rate bonds etc. A list of my top thirty income ideas (all yielding over 5%) from over 10 different asset classes is available.
Amongst the major currencies, the Japanese Yen was the major December feature falling 1.2% in trade weighted terms. On the other side of the coin, the Euro rose 0.57%. The Euro strength at least partially reflected growing economic optimism and a gradual resolution to the German political stalemate. These volatile FX moves have played an increasing role in asset class allocations and this look set to continue. In sterling terms, Japanese and Continental European equities markedly outperformed USA and the UK.
Another mixed month for commodities. Oil showed a further bounce, the most recent OPEC agreement being broadly in line with expectations and some supply issues e.g North Sea and Libya. There were mixed trends amongst the precious metals, while the copper price rose by 7.8% during the month and over 31% over the full year. Over the twelve-month period, palladium rose by over 57% in price terms, while iron ore dropped about 7%. Recent mining conferences have focussed on both the China effect in reducing supply, and the growing requirements of the emerging EV (electric vehicle) markets. See my recent note on how to play the mining and oil sectors into 2018 while also enjoying an above average dividend yield (paid quarterly).
Over the coming months, I expect Central Bank statements and political events e.g. German coalition formation, Catalonian election follow-up, Italian election campaigning, Brexit,Korea, Iran, USA, and the major corporate reporting season (both figures and forward looking statements) to be the main forces driving major asset classes . US watchers will start preparing for the next interest rate hike, under the new Fed Chairman Powell as well as fleshing out the winners and losers from the recent Tax Reform Bill, and watching the machinations ahead of the latest funding deadline (19th January). In Japan, Shinzo Abe is likely to push for changes in the Constitution and reinforce the easier monetary and fiscal economic policy stance following his resounding election victory. Hard economic data (as opposed to sentiment surveys) will shows that the UK economic growth will be slower in 2017 compared to 2016 and downgrades to 2018 have recently been made by many organizations. Anecdotal evidence from retailors usually released early January will give some clues as to consumer trends. BREXIT discussions enter a new phase with discussions on the timing and nature of the new “Trade Deal”, as well as transitional arrangements being a major focus.
On a valuation basis, most, but not all, conventional government fixed interest products continue to appear expensive against current economic forecasts and supply factors, and renewed bond price declines and further relative underperformance versus equities should be expected, in my view. Equities appear more valued, apart from some PE metrics, (especially in the US), although not in bubble territory, but there are wide variations, and opportunities, in both broad asset classes. Equity investors will be looking to see if superior earnings growth can compensate for higher interest rates in several areas. Corporate results from US, Europe and Japan were, on aggregate, up to expectations at the third quarter 2017 stage, although EY noted that the number of UK profits warning were about 10% higher than the previous year at the nine-month stage, mostly in the home improvement, motor and other retail areas. Outside pure valuation measures, sentiment indicators and the VIX index are still relatively low though showing more day to day variation. Growing cyber-currency attention also demonstrates investor skittishness, search for new assets.
In terms of current recommendations,
Continue to overweight equities relative to core government bonds, especially within Continental Europe and Japan. However, the equity selection should be very focussed. Certain equity valuations are rather high, especially on a PE basis (see quarterly). A combination of sharper than expected interest rate increases with corporate earnings shocks would not be conducive to strong equity returns.
- I have moved UK equities from underweight to a more neutral position following the market 2017 underperformance and valuations of certain of the major global stocks. Within the UK equity space, I suggest moving the balance of small/large cap stocks now back to neutral following both the outperformance of the former and the volatility in the currency (part post-election, part BREXIT). Ongoing Brexit debate, political stalemate could cause more sterling wobbles, which in turn could affect sector/size choices. I would expect to see more profits warnings e.g WPP #WPP, Provident Financial #PFG, Dixons Carphone #DX, Carillion #CLLN, Paragon #PAG, Next #NXT, Centrica #CNA etc and cautious statements as we move through into the results season.
- Within UK sectors, some of the higher yielding defensive plays e.g. Pharma, telco’s and utilities have attractions relative to certain cyclicals. Oil and gas majors may be worth topping up after recent weakness and balance sheet improvements and have lagged the recovery in the spot price. Concentrate on the major diversified although there are currently some very attractive equity and fixed interest ideas in the mid/small cap area.
- Continental European equities preferred to those of USA, for reasons of valuation, and Central bank policy. This strategy, in sterling adjusted terms worked very well through 2017 (DAX outperforming the S&P by about 8%) and I expect to continue. Improving economic data adds to my enthusiasm for selected European names, although European investors may be advised to focus more on domestic, rather than export related themes. Look at underlying exposure of your funds carefully. Remember that certain European and Japanese companies provide US exposure, without paying US prices. I have recently written on Japan, and I would continue to overweight this market, especially in hedged form, despite the large 2017 outperformance. recently.
- Alternative fixed interest vehicles, which continue to perform relatively well against conventional government bonds, have attractions e.g. floating rate funds, preference shares, convertibles, for balanced, cautious accounts and energy/ emerging/speculative grade for higher risk. These remain my favoured plays within the fixed interest space.
- UK bank preference shares still look particularly attractive, and could be considered as alternatives to the ordinary shares in some cases. Prices have shown good capital growth since the beginning of the year as well as offering annual yields more than 5%, but are still recommended for more cautious investors with a desire for regular annual income. Recent results and the November “stress test” results show that generally UK balance sheets are generally in good shape, and I see negligible risk of default on preference share dividends for the recommended stocks.
- Alternative income, private equity and renewable funds have exhibited their defensive characteristics during recent equity market wobbles and are still recommended as part of a balanced portfolio. Reference could be made to the renewable funds (see my recent solar and wind power recommendations). Selected infrastructure funds are also recommended for purchase after the recent weakness (see note).
- Any new commitments to the commercial property sector should be more focussed on direct equities and investment trusts than unit trusts (see my recent note comparing open ended and closed ended funds), thus exploiting the discount and double discount features respectively. However, in general I would not overweight the sector, as along with residential property, I expect further price stagnation especially in London offices. The outlook for some specialist sub sectors and property outside London/South-East, however, is currently more favourable. Investors should also consider some continental European property plays. See my recent note on this sector.
- I suggest a selective approach to emerging equities and bonds, especially where significant dollar loan exposure and or potential geo-political uncertainties are present e.g. Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa. Although the overall valuation for emerging market equities is relatively modest, there are large differences between individual countries.
Full fourth quarterly report will be available in January and suggested portfolio strategy/individual recommendations are available. Ideas for a ten stock FTSE portfolio, model pooled fund portfolios (cautious, balanced adventurous, income), 30 stock income lists, hedging ideas and a list of shorter term low risk/ high risk ideas can also be purchased, as well as bespoke portfolio construction/restructuring. I expect more clients to consider switching some final salary pots to SIPP over coming quarters, as transfer values start to slip (partially in line with rising gilt yields) and can work with you providing bespoke portfolios according to client needs.
Good luck with performance! Ken Baksh 01/01/2018
All stock recommendations and comments are the opinion of writer.
Investors should be cautious about all stock recommendations and should consider the source of any advice on stock selection. Various factors, including personal ownership, may influence or factor into a stock analysis or opinion.
All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into individual stocks before making a purchase decision. In addition, investors are advised that past stock performance is not indicative of future price action.
You should be aware of the risks involved in stock investing, and you use the material contained herein at your own risk
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Please contact Ken, (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information
Dixons Carphone DC has found UK mobile profitability challenging during the half year to the 28th October to such an extent that it needs addressing which is really as good as admitting that they have not bothered to do so yet. Black Friday trading was at record levels in all geographies, without any explanation as to what a geography is .- at a guess it could mean “country”. Statutory profit before tax fell from £111m. to £42m. and statutory basic earnings per share were down from 8.1p per share to 3.3p. The day was saved by a strong performance in electricals with like for like revenue up by 7% creating growing profitability and market share. The interim dividend remain unchanged.
Serco Group SRP predicts strong profit growth for 2018 and 2019 after strong order intake of over 3bn for the current year. Profit performance for the current year is expected to be around the top end of previous guidance, whilst net debt will be at the lower end.
Wood Group (John) plc WG updates that so far this year its core oil and gas markets have continued to pesent challenges which have been offset by growth elsewhere. The integration of Amec Foster Wheeler which was completed on the 9th October is progressing ahead of schedule, as are planned cost cuts. Customer reaction has been positive and momentum has been gained in contract awards.
Parity Group plc PTY Like for like operating profit for the year to the end of December is expected to be ahead of previous guidance and underlying operating profit is expected to show double digit growth. Net debt has been cut by more than two thirds over the 18 Months to to the 30th June, down from £7.5m to £2.3m.
Safestyle UK plc SFE Updates that demand has weakened further since the interim results were announced in September and in the three months to the 30th November sales volume fell by a further 6.8% and sales value by 0.3%. Fourth quarter sales will now be below their already reduced expectations. Margins have been impacted by increases increases in he cost of sales, competition and the disruption which is at present being caused by December’s severe weather. Underlying profit before tax for the full year will be below current market expectattions, down to at lest £15m
Dixons Carphone plc DC has been facing challenging conditions in the UK mobile phone market as owners hold onto their existing mobiles for longer, partly due to price rises reflecting the weakness of sterling. It may also have something to do with people waking up to the fact that they do not need to change their mobile every time the model is brought out in a new colour. Apart from that the group produced a good performance in electricals for the 13 weeks to the 29th July, with group like for like revenue rising by 6%, even in Greece – perhaps a sign that at long last that country may be beginning to emerge from the years of austerity. Overall core profit for the year is expected to be in line with last year.
John Laing Group JLG concentrates on NAV in its interim results for the 6 months to the 30th June preferring that rather than more interesting basics such as profit before tax which slumped from from last years £108.3m to this years £36.6m. or even earnings per share which similarly dropped from 29.1 to 10.2p per share. The interim dividend is increased from 1.85p to 1.91p per share.
Hunting plc HTG Despite a 64% rise in revenue in the half year to the 30th June, the company still remains loss making, although the retiring CEO claims that positive EBITDA of $12.1m. indicates that profitability has returned in some of the company’s businesses, especially when one compares it with 2016’s EBITDA loss of $29.5m. The underlying operating loss hows a healthy reduction from $50.8m to to $9.1m. The out look for the full year however, still remains dependent on the price of oil.
CRH plc CRH claims a satisfactory start to 2017 with key European markets stabilising and growth in the Americas. First half profit before tax rose by 27% and basic earnings per share by 29% although sales revenue only grew by 2%. The interim dividend is to be increased by 2.1% and the present momentum is expected to continue for the remainder of the year.
Dixons Carphone plc DC. has agreed to dispose of its entire holding in The Phone House Spain for 55m Euro less adjustments. Not a single reason, good bad or indifferent, is given for the withdrawal.
Hays plc HAS produced a record net fee performance for the quarter to 30th June, its 17th consecutive quarter of net growth. Like for like net fees for the quarter grew by 7%, with the UK, as appears to be happening more and more frequently, coming last with 5%, less than half of the growth in the rest of the world, led, as can also be expected, by Germany with a rise of 16%. Indeed the UK’s performance with a fall in net fees of 5% (not like for like) was even worse. Operating profits for the full year are expected to be marginally ahead of current market expectations.
Workspace Group plc WKP claims a strong start to the new financial year with robust customer demand. The fact that monthly enquiries are very slightly down on full year 2016-17 and average monthly lettings are down by about 4% from 99 to 95 per month, does not receive a comment.
Ramsdens Holdings RFX has traded strongly during the early part of the current financial year and this has continued into its all important summer period. It has had to report to its regulators that there has been unauthorised access to its IT systems but it expects that any disruption will be minimal.
Stagecoach Group SGC Does not expect to be profitable until 2019 so it is playing safe and to make sure that shareholders do not get too angry is raising the dividend for the year to 29th April by 4.4% to 11.9p per share. Basic earnings per share for the year fell from 17.1p to 5.5p and profit before tax on a statutory basis slumped from £104.4m to £17.9m. The company is now trying to focus on sustainable growth for the long term.
Dixons Carphone DC claims a good result for the year to 29th April, with a rise of 10% in headline profit before tax. On a statutory basis profit before tax rose from £263m. to £386m and basic earnings per share from 14p to 25.6p. The final dividend is to be increased to 7.75p. per share making a total increase for the year of 15%
Petra Diamonds Ltd. PDL Financial results for the year to 30th June will be below market expectations following a fall in production to 4.4m carats some 6.9%. lower than previous guidance. Despite this Petra is still on track to achieve record revenue and production for the full year as well as expecting to reach its target of 5m carats, a year earlier than planned.
Bunzl plc BNZL expects group revenue for the six months to 30th June will have grown by 7% at constant exchange rates, half of which will come from underlying growth and half from acquisitions. Exchange rate movements will provide a 12% benefit. Bunzl also announces that it has acuired a further three companies in Spain and Canada as part of its strategy for growth
Marks & Spencer M&S must be desperately awaiting the arrival of Archie Norman in the hope that he can achieve the turn round which has so far eluded the company. Todays results paint a sorry picture for a company which was once the leading presence on the UK high street.Profit before tax for the year to 1st April fell by 63.5%, basic earnings per share by 70.7% and profit after tax by 71.1%. Revenue growth of 4.2% in food sales came from new stores.On a constant currency basis like for like sales in home and clothing fell by 3.4% but home and clothing was a main item in current plans for recovery and growth. Despite this management is to reduce space for home and clothing by between 1 and 2% Overall like for like group sales for the year fell by 1.1%.
Babcock International BAB continued its enviable record of strong growth in the year to the end of March. The full year dividend is to be increased by 9.1% after a revenue increase of 7.1% and rises of 7.6% in profit before tax and 8% in basic earnings per share.. The year saw significant breakthroughs with receipt of the first ever orders from the French Ministry of Defence and becoming the first non US company to win business for a critical US nuclear submarine programme. The order book remains robust.
Mediclinic international MDC is to pay a final dividend of 4.7% making a total for the year to the end of March of 7.9%, in line with its dividend policy. revenue for the year rose by 30%, earnings per share by 5% and earnings by 29%. The company benefited from the weakness of sterling. South Africa’s performance was particulary strong but the Middle east was very and did not come up to expectations.
Dixons Carphone plc DC. claims another good year with a 4% rise in like for like revenue, although in the final quarter to the 29th april, this fell to 2%, due mainly to a late Easter and the delayed arrival of the Samsung S8. Southern Europe has had a very good year with like for like revenues up by 6% and Greece being a particularly strong performer.
Stagecoach Group SGC has announced the sudden disposal of its Megabus Europe retail operations to Flix Bus. It is not getting a single penny in cash and completion is at the end of this week. All it is getting is a loan note for an unspecified amount which it expects to be paid by the end of the year. Normally major companies do not dispose of a large part of their operations without some gaurantee that at the end of the day they will be getting paid a specific amount on a specific date. Perhaps the fact that losses at its european megabus operation soared by sixfold during the year from 4.2m to 24.1m. may have something to do with the unseemly rush to get out.
The company also admits that its bus and rail operations are beset by challenging trading conditions not only in mainland Europe but also in the UK and North America. In particular UK bus growth has been low and UK rail has challenges.
Total operating profit for the year to 30th April fell from 217.9m to 171.7 m. despite a rise in revenue of 20%. The one thing which is not challenged is the final dividend which is raised from 7.3p per share to 7.9p, making an increase of 11% for the year.
Greene King GNK had a transformational year in 2016 with group revenue for the year to the 1st May, up by 57.6%. Profit before tax followed suite with a rise of 60.6% and the dividend is to be increased by a modest 7.7%. revenue passed £2billion for the first time and the new year has started well, with a like for like sales rise of 2.8%.
Dixons Carphone DC. announces another year of significant earnings growth withgroup like for like revenue rising by 5% in the year to 30th april. Even southern Europe, long the laggard, managed 4% growth. Profit before tax rose by 17% and the final dividend is being inxcreased to to 6.5p making a 15% rise for the full year.