LONDON -- There are things to love and loathe about most companies. Today, I'm going to tell you about three things to love about FTSE 100 high-street icon Marks and Spencer Group (LSE:MKS).
I'll also be asking whether these positive factors make M&S a good investment today.
M&S, the iconic retailer of quality goods at a reasonable price, has been a fixture on the high street for more than a century. In 1998, the company became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over 1 billion pounds.
Over the past 15 years, M&S has had a tougher time. But "survivorbility" is the name of the game on the high street, and despite the knocks, the company keeps bouncing back.
When companies talk about "trading in line with market expectations" (or below or ahead of expectations), it's often difficult for small shareholders to know what those expectations are. Forecasts on popular financial websites invariably differ and often to a considerable degree.
M&S is one of a minority of companies to publish its own analysts' consensus forecasts on its website. Furthermore, the forecasts are kept reasonably up to date (15 February at the time of writing). So, as these are not just any consensus forecasts, but M&S consensus forecasts, you always know where you are with what the company considers to be market expectations.
M&S has hundreds of thousands of small investors, many of whom shop in its stores. Shareholders receive perks along with the company's interim dividend paid in January. This year the perks consisted of one 10% off voucher, one M&S Cafe voucher and a selection of spend-&-save vouchers.
You only have to own a single M&S share to be entitled to the perks, so if you're a shareholder -- however small -- you should be getting them. If you're not, it's more than likely your shares are held with a nominee company that doesn't play ball with M&S on the scheme. All you have to do to get the perks in future is confirm your name, address and how you hold your shares with M&S's registrar on 0845 609 0810.
A good investment?
Using those analyst consensus forecasts I mentioned earlier, and a recent share price of 384 pence, M&S is trading on just under 12 times current-year earnings expectations. That's attractive relative to the market average, while an expected dividend of 17 pence for the year supports an above-market-average yield of 4.4%.
However, M&S's valuation was not appealing enough to qualify the share for this exclusive in-depth report, which is devoted instead to another strong dividend opportunity within the FTSE 100.
In fact, this alternative opportunity offers a prospective 5.9% yield, might be worth 850p versus around 700 pence now -- and has just been declared the "Motley Fool's Top Income Stock for 2013." Simply click here to download the report -- it's 100% free.
G. A. Chester does not own shares in Marks & Spencer. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.