LONDON -- Shares in financial services specialist Hargreaves Lansdown (HL 0.29%) have continued to surge in recent weeks, rising more than 40% since the beginning of 2013 and striking record peaks above 960 pence following this week's encouraging interims.
And I expect the firm's multi-year track record of blistering earnings growth to carry on rolling, and when coupled with an increasingly rewarding dividend policy, it should continue to send stock prices northwards.
Investment activity keeps on rolling
The company announced this week that assets under management hit a record 35.1 billion pounds in the three months to March 31, up 35% from the corresponding period last year. Meanwhile, net inflows during the three months also hit an all-time high of 1.8 billion pounds compared with inflows of 1 billion pounds in January-March 2012. These results helped to power revenues 24% higher, to 216.6 million pounds.
Hargreaves Lansdown is a star performer when it comes to generating recurring revenues, which helps it to maintain growth even in times of wider economic difficulties. Oriel Securities puts repeat turnover at 80%. The firm also boasts tremendous operating profit margins in excess of 60%, while return on equity comes in at around 70%.
Robust earnings growth to bolster generous dividends
City analysts anticipate weighty earnings-per-share growth of 27% in the year ending June 2013, to 31 pence, before advancing a further 17% in 2014 to 36 pence.
Hargreaves Landsdown was recently changing hands on a P/E rating of 30.9 and 26.4 for 2013 and 2014, signalling a not-insignificant premium to a reading of 20.3 for the broad financial services sector. However, the stock does not appear grossly overvalued when one considers its price/earnings to growth (PEG) ratio for these years -- a figure of 1.1 and and 1.6 are predicted for this year and next. A reading around 1 is considered decent value for money.
Furthermore, I believe that the company's investment appeal is strengthened by a progressive dividend policy that should yield juicy income flows moving forwards. Hargreaves Lansdown hiked its final dividend to 22.6 pence in 2012, up 20% from 2011, and brokers expect this to rise to 25.8 pence in 2013 and 29.8 pence the following year.
Payments for the next two years carries a yield of 2.9% for 2013, and which is expected to eclipse the current FTSE 100 average of 3.3% in 2014, increasing to 3.4%. Although the firm only offers dividend cover of 1.2 times forward earnings for this period, well below the widely regarded safety marker of 2 times, I believe that sturdy earnings growth should underpin healthy dividend growth.
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