...as today we have had final results from Persimmon (PSN), a fruit and one of the largest UK house builders. As with other house builders these are strong, as one would expect, so I won't dwell on the detail for which I suggest you look into the full announcement at their investor website. On the income front worth noting though that they boosted their planned return of capital under their plan to 110p again this year and they boosted the extent of this further by suggesting a similar level of returns for the next five years too. At this mornings price of around 2050p this would give a decent yield of 5.4%.
While on the earnings front the 173p seemed to well ahead of forecasts and close to the 176p currently forecast for the coming year. So I presume we could see some upgrades to earnings and dividend forecasts on the back of these numbers. However, this may be required to keep the shares going as others in the sector have been weak and this one looks a bit expensive on a PE of 11.6x before any upgrades and they are not far off resistance from their highs last September. Thus I probably wouldn't chase it up here and if you wanted a house builder the higher scoring stocks in the sector on the Compound Income Scores are Bellway (BWY), which is in the Compound Income Scores Portfolio and the lower yielding Inland Homes (INL) if you are not so worried about income.
Meanwhile amongst a flood of other announcements and dividend cuts from BHP Billiton (BLT), Ladbrokes (LAD), and Standard Chartered (STAN) I've seen a 22.6% increase in my dividend from Provident Financial Group (PFG) which was about 2% better than forecast. This non standard lender continues to do well on the back of restructuring their home collected credit business, the acquisition of car loan business Money Barn and growth in their Vanquis bank business which includes a credit card operation too. The shares have however factored much of this growth in as they have doubled in the last two years to their current 3300p or so and now trade on a PE of around 18x with a yield of 4% for the current year on the back of a further 10% growth. Thus they seem fairly fully valued to me although they did trade up to 3600p recently. They are probably a strong hold though for income and growth as they continue to fund their dividend and growth from internally generated capital, including their latest venture into on line loans under the Satsuma brand.
We had Passenger Statistics for December from Easyjet (EZJ) today, which on their own are not that interesting there were a couple of interesting snippets within them. Firstly the load factor (how full the planes are) was down in December by 1.8% despite passenger numbers being up by 4.6%. They put this down to the effects of the Paris attacks and flagged that with around 23% of their capacity during December was in France and they are the second largest carrier in that country. However on a more positive note they did say that load factors are now returning to more normal levels (which is in line with previous experience with these types of events) and that they do not anticipate any change to full year forecasts at this stage.
Meanwhile closer to home in brief we had a trading update from the housebuilder Persimmon (PSN) which as expected looked pretty positive. It looks to me as though the revenues they are suggesting are slightly ahead of forecasts so I assume we might see some more upgrades ahead of the full year numbers next month.
...as it has been a busy day for results today. Most of these I have covered recently when they announced year end trading updates so I'll just give brief comments today.
Firstly was Provident Financial (PFG) - the home credit and sub prime credit and instalment lender (click the name for previous posts or see the categories list at the side of the blog). They reported results which were probably just shy of best expectations with the dividend at 98 pence rather than 99 pence forecast, but then it was up by 15.3% which was better than expected at the start of the year. Thus not surprised to see the shares off a little first thing as they have had a great run and only look about average value albeit with a decent and strongly growing yield of around 4% which remains the main attraction of this one. The only real point of note is that I see they are scrapping their Polish Credit card pilot at little cost this year having seen start up losses of £10m there last year - so a small boost there.
Next onto boxes and firstly the cardboard variety as manufactured by Mondi (MNDI) amongst other things. In contrast to PFG their numbers seemed to be slightly ahead of expectations at the earnings level and as such the share have responded positively first thing. I note the dividend was perhaps 1c light of forecasts but was nevertheless up by 17% and well covered by earnings and cash flow. This one is obviously sensitive to general economic conditions (cyclical) and they say that the outlook for this to remain below average. They are also affected by exchange rate moves but these have tended to help them recently. They summed up by saying "Furthermore, the recently completed capital investments and ongoing projects should contribute meaningfully to our performance going forward. As such, we are confident of making further progress in the year ahead." The only other point I noted was that they flagged a little extra cost from planned outages this year which are expected to total €80m versus €55m last year. The shares have done well in the last year out performing by around 20% and they have re-rated somewhat as a result. Thus they look less compelling on around 15 to 16x next years earnings with a 2.7% yield, before any changes on the back of these numbers. The latest declared operating margin also leaves it on a fairish 7% earnings yield. Consequently the CI score has drifted back into the 60's as the shares have re-rated and as such they look like a hold up here and if you hold them I would suggest you need to keep an eye on economic developements for signs of weakness / recession emerging given their cyclicality.
Persimmon (PSN) was the other box provider that reported today and as expected reported very strong results and a welcome early payment (April rather than July) of this years planned return of capital of 95 pence. The problem here is that the share had travelled well before today's numbers so probably not surprising to see some profit taking as perhaps people think this might be as good as it gets perhaps. They are however committed to further capital returns over the next few years, although next years is only currently expected to be 10 pence, although this could be upgraded.
So with a fullish looking (for a house builder) PE of nearly 12x this years earnings and more limited yield support given the lower return of capital planned for next year I can see whey people would be taking profit up here ahead of the General Election uncertainty. Despite this the company say the year has started well and they still seem well place to prosper in the medium term so as I always say you pay your money and take your choice.
Finally digging deep into my reserves of endurance and as the coffee pot beckons just a quick mention for BHP Billiton (BLT) which reported half year results today. Not being a mining analyst I'll not get into analysing or debating the various possibilities for commodity prices. But in passing I note that they still expect an average investment return of greater than 20% for their portfolio of high-quality development options. In addition they say they expect to maintain or not "re-based" as corporates like to say these days, the dividend even after the planned demerger. This suggests that the 5%+ yield is safe for now but I note that earnings have been downgraded steadily in recent months and the cover is diminishing and will diminish further post the demerger. So if economies and commodity prices continue to struggle then this dividend could come under pressure in the medium term.
Today we have another set of results from a house builder, Persimmon (PSN), which as you would expect are very strong. No surprises here on the dividend as they made their second payment of £214m (70p per share), paid 4 July 2014, of surplus capital under the Capital Return Plan. This is a Berkeley Group (BKG) style plan to return surplus capital that they generate to shareholders over the next ten years. By way of reminder they describe this plan as follows:
"Our long term strategy is to deliver superior shareholder value through the housing cycle. This value will be delivered by growing the Group to optimal scale as markets develop and requires disciplined, well-judged capital deployment through the cycle. Management has given a long term commitment to shareholders that they will receive capital that is considered as surplus to the needs of the reinvestment requirements of the business through the cycle. This commitment is to return £6.20 per share, or £1.9 billion of capital, to shareholders over a ten year period to June 2021."
The first two payments of surplus capital totalling £1.45 per share, or £442 million, were made on 28 June 2013 and on 4 July this year. The third scheduled payment is 95 pence per share, or c. £290 million, in July 2015. This will be finalised and announced with the 2014 Full Year results of the Group scheduled for Tuesday 24 February 2015.
I'll not dwell on the results as they show lots of strong numbers which you can read in full at the link above if that is of interest to you. However I would highlight that the revenues were up by 33% to £1.2bn which compares to full year revenue growth forecasts of 18.4% (Source: Stockopedia). They also reported earnings per share of around 54 pence versus 34 pence at the same stage last year which in the event were around 42% of the full year earnings. If roughly the same h1 / h2 split is achieved this year then they could perhaps achieve closer to 128 pence of earnings against current forecasts of 111.8 pence which suggests some scope for upgrades on the back of these numbers. This is especially so as they say that current forward sales are up by 22% and that reservation in the traditionally quieter summer months since 1 July are running 9% ahead of last year.
Summary & Conclusion
Another strong set of numbers from Persimmon with further progress on their plans to return surplus capital to shareholders over the next few years. With next years payment of 95 pence this gives a yield of 7.1% at last nights closing price of 1335 pence. Meanwhile current trading looks strong and this leaves them well place to probably beat current forecasts which put it on 12x for this year, but this may turn out to be closer to 10x if they do see some upgrades and they are on just under 10x next years current forecast earnings. This one, like Bovis yesterday, also looks to have gone through a period of consolidation which it may also be breaking out from, but resistance from peaks earlier in the year is not far away at between 1400 and 1500 pence, so a strong hold for me for now. If you are not in it and are prepared to buy into the house builders then this seems like a good way to play it, but given the lumpy nature and timing of the dividend there may be better opportunities to get in along the way before the next payment is due.
Finally today I have for you an in line 6 month trading update from Imperial Tobacco (IMT) which they headlined as continued strategic progress and unchanged full year outlook. So steady as she goes with limited growth from their mature markets, but they claim their growth brands outperformed the market while specialist brands also did well. Their growth markets saw better growth of 8%. The main story going forward will be the integration of the US acquisition announced last month, the cost of which means they have suspended their share buy back programme.
This leaves them on around 12x with a 5% yield based off of the 10% dividend growth for this year which they have reiterated in these numbers. So OK in a dull way although the balance sheet is more geared than I would like, but I can just about live with it given the strong and predictable cash flows they generate - still beats cash in the bank if you are prepared to take the risk.