LONDON -- Back in August, bullish management at infrastructure maintenance and engineering firm Balfour Beatty (LSE: BBY.L ) raised the company's half-year dividend by 6% to 5.6 pence per share, citing "another set of solid results ... and our confidence that we are well placed to take full advantage of the global growth in infrastructure markets."
Oops. What a difference three months makes: Today, the share was the single-most popular buy among the private clients of stockbroker TD Direct Investing between the market's opening and noon.
How come? A markedly different reading of the runes, in short, speaking of "market deterioration" and "depressed markets" and confessing that "the performance of our U.K. construction business is weaker than anticipated."
The share price duly headed south, falling by 16% at the time of writing. That said, given the minor projected impact on profitability and the cost-cutting already in place, there's every prospect that the dividend will be maintained, placing the business on a fairly attractive 5% forecast yield. Throw in a prospective price-to-earnings ratio of eight, and Balfour Beatty -- already cheap -- starts to look distinctly attractive.
The reason? A broker upgrade from Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, rating the share a "market outperform" and setting a target price of 60 pence -- some 36% higher than today's beaten-down price. And the underlying logic is clear: As 2013 gets ever closer, this former high-yield favorite is also getting ever closer to the point where it can finally pay a dividend -- the first since 2008.
Third up: Vodafone (LSE: VOD.L ) (Nasdaq: VOD ) , which continues to offer the alluring combination of an eye-watering 7%-plus yield and a trading range of around its 52-week low. Rarely out of TD Direct Investing's daily lists in recent times, today the share was the ninth-most popular buy among the broker's private clients.
Granted, there's more bad news around the share than there has been for some time. Reports this week, for instance, highlight how consumers in the eurozone's troubled economies of Italy and Spain are ditching Vodafone phones and contracts in favor of cheaper offerings -- or just ditching them full-stop.
But if you don't buy shares when they're cheap, when do you buy them? Still one of the largest businesses in the FTSE 100, Vodafone is no more immune to temporary economic vicissitudes than any other business.
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