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LONDON -- September will see results from a number of companies I'm interested in. Some I already hold but would like to add more shares at the right price. Some would represent a new investment for me.
I'll be reading the announcements from the following five companies very carefully and watching their share prices closely in the wake of the results.
Midlands-based property group A&J Mucklow (LSE: MKLW.L ) will be announcing its final results on Wednesday this week. Analysts are expecting minimal earnings growth but a modest uplift of the dividend from 18.5 pence to 19 pence, giving a yield of just over 5% at the current share price of 370 pence.
This 222-million-pound small cap is one of the few REITs, or real estate investment trusts, that came through the financial crisis with its dividend intact and without having to tap shareholders for cash to shore up its balance sheet.
Property companies typically trade at a discount to NAV (net asset value), but the market rates Mucklow highly on a premium of 20%. That's based on the last reported NAV at Dec. 31, 2011, so I'll be looking to see if the NAV has increased in this week's finals. I'll also be looking to see if the mixed trading picture Mucklow presented in an interim management statement in May is any clearer. Two analysts currently cover Mucklow, one rating the shares a "sell" and the other a "strong sell."
All of a lather
FTSE 250 firm PZ Cussons (LSE: PZC.L ) , the maker of Imperial Leather soap, Carex hand wash and other personal-care products, last month reported pre-tax profits down 15% for the year ended May 31. This was as a result of higher raw material costs and challenging trading conditions in Nigeria (one of its major markets) and Australia.
However, the directors raised the final dividend modestly, maintaining an impressive four-decade record of annual increases. And, notwithstanding the continuing social and economic tensions in Nigeria, they said they're confident the group will return to profitable growth in the current year.
Today's share price of 304 pence is 14% lower than 12 months ago, but PZC is still rated highly by the market on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 19. Meanwhile, five analysts rate the shares "neutral" and three a "strong sell." PZC has an interim management statement scheduled for Sept. 19, which should tell us whether the market or the analysts are nearer to the mark.
Lighting firm FW Thorpe (LSE: TFW.L ) is due to announce its final results on Sept. 20. This 123-million-pound small cap reported a 12% increase in revenue and an 18% increase in earnings per share at the half-year stage.
The shares have risen 22% over the past six months and at the current price of 1,035 pence are on a trailing P/E of 13. However, Thorpe also has net cash of 16 million pounds and a further 14 million pounds in liquid financial assets, representing 256 pence per share, giving an adjusted P/E of 9.8. There is no analyst coverage of the company, so no forecasts.
In the final results, I'll be looking to see if the first-half EPS growth rate has continued in the second half. I'll also be looking at the cash on the balance sheet and for progress on LED lighting solutions, which should be a big driver of future growth.
AG Barr (LSE: BAG.L ) , the maker of Irn Bru and other soft drinks, is due to announce its interim results on Sept. 24. The FTSE 250 firm's pre-close trading update released in July wasn't altogether sparkling.
Barr noted that adverse weather had significantly affected the market in the first half, but said it had continued to grow sales ahead of its rivals. The company forecasts revenue of around 130 million pounds for the period, which is 4.5% up on the same period last year. However, profits are expected to be lower, with margins affected by increased cost of goods, brand investment, and sales mix.
Barr anticipates margins will improve in the second half but that it is unlikely to offset the margin shortfalls of the first half. So, margins are one thing I'll be looking at closely in the upcoming results. Analysts' forecast for the current year, which ends January 2013, put the company on a rich P/E of around 19 at the current share price of 421 pence.
Walking on air
Flooring firm James Halstead (LSE: JHD.L ) is set to announce its final results at the end of September. The company has breezed through the past five difficult years, growing its earnings and dividend at a rate of knots.
In a pre-close statement, issued in July, Halstead said it was confident it would deliver another year of record sales and profits in line with market expectations. Perhaps not surprisingly, for an industrial-sector firm that has been walking on air while many others have been trudging through mud, Halstead's shares are highly rated. At the current price of 605 pence, the P/E is around 21. Even allowing for a 37 million pound cash pile, the cash-adjusted P/E is barely less than 20.
Halstead is an AIM-listed company, but one of the top members of the index with a market cap of 625 million pounds, which is bigger than FTSE 250 firm AG Barr. AIM companies have certain advantages for inheritance tax, and I suspect Halstead's size and splendid trading record make it a popular holding for individual high net worth investors and firms that specialize in share portfolios for inheritance tax planning. I believe this "technical" factor is an additional support to the high rating.
Bad news is good news
Clearly, most of these companies are currently highly rated; indeed, Thorpe is the only one whose P/E could be said to be in "value" territory. Hence, I'm hoping for some share-price depressing news in September and a market over-reaction to it! Or at least some profit-taking following the results to give a bit of share price weakness.
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