Further to this months screening, as expected we have had final results from VP plc today. These appear to be slightly ahead of forecasts with revenues coming in at £303.6m versus forecasts of just less than £300m and basic eps pre amortisation at over 81.8p versus a consensus forecast of around 79p. the dividend was raised by 18% to 26p which was also slightly ahead of the forecast 25.3p or so.
Thus it looks like they made sure they could slightly exceed expectations and despite market uncertainties they say that they - "...look forward to the new financial year with confidence."
So they look fine on a prospective 10x PE with a 3% yield as another year of strong growth is forecast, but we'll have to wait and see if these results lead to any changes to forecasts which will feed through to the Score next month.
The shares having had a good run into the figures may pause for breathe as they are approaching the top of their recent trading range between 800p and 940p or so which may act as resistance. Given the valuation and the outlook however, I wouldn't be surprised to see them breaking out to the upside in due course if not today.
Mid morning update - the figures seem to have been well received and the shares are currently up by about 5% - so maybe breaking out already. I also saw a note from Equity Development where they upgraded their numbers to 95p with a 30.2p dividend which compares to 93.7p & 29.2p consensus. They also raised their price target to 1070p for what that's worth, although reinforces the breakout theory.
Quite an interesting and tricky month for the screening with four potential sale candidates coming up based on their Scores. VP the plant hire group again fell into this category, but as I kept it in last time awaiting their results, I am going to do that again this month as these are due this week on the 5th June. The shares have had a good run into this week and the prior update was of the in line variety. So it seems unlikely that there should be any surprises unless they have deliberately kept expectations low so they can pleasantly surprise, perhaps. Lets hope they don't disappoint and leave me regretting my decision to await the results rather than selling before, which might have been the lower risk option. Other than that with the acquisition of Brandon Hire late last year it will also be worth watching out for an update on how the integration is going there for any problems or increase in the expected synergies & cost savings.
Another sale candidate that I decided to give the benefit of the doubt to was Hays Group (HAS) the staffing company which had a positive trading update and looks set for a strong year which ends this month. The main reason the score has fallen is due to no changes to the forecasts in the short term and a decline in the cover ratio as they are expected to pay a much larger dividend via the payment of a special dividend. Thus with the year end approaching I thought I'd await the year end up date & see if that leads to upgrades and an improvement in the Score again and the possibility of hanging on to collect the final and special dividends too. Alternatively I could have switched into the better scoring and similar company Robert Walters, but this was not much cheaper so I dismissed that idea to keep the trading costs down, which is one of the few costs that an investor can control.
The remaining two sales candidates which I let go through were Headlam Group (HEAD) & Jarvis Group (JIM). Of these I had given Headlam the benefit of the doubt previously and indeed topped it up last month. But having taken the final dividend their score has deteriorated again after their trading update this month led to downgrades. While it remains lowly valued and they seem to be taking action to manage the business against a difficult background, they acknowledge that achieving their targets will depend on a customary stronger second half & no continuation of recent weaker trends, which leaves them open to the risk of having to warn on profits later in the year. Equally it may all pan out as they hope and the shares might then re-rate on the back of relief over there being no profit warning, but as ever we'll have to wait and see on that.
As for Jarvis Group the score has deteriorated here after their somewhat cautious statement that accompanied their bumper full year figures. Thus the expected growth looks pretty lack lustre and there is no dividend growth forecast. Thus although it is probably fine for the long term it doesn't seem to offer that greater value on around 15x earnings. In addition the CIS portfolio has a lot of exposure to financials any way, with two fund management companies, so out it goes, but personally I'll probably continue to hold it myself for the long term as part of a more broadly diversified portfolio.
In terms of the replacement candidates a few interesting ideas came up including Phoenix Spree Deutschland (PSDL) which is a property fund that is now specializing in Berlin property. While I toyed with the idea, it seemed a bit too off piste for what I'm trying to demonstrate with the CISP but I might treat myself to a few for a bit more diversification. Aside from that Howden Joinery (HWDN) came up again as a potential re-entrant to the portfolio. But having sold Headlam on around 10x I was reluctant to replace it with another similarly exposed consumer cyclical on 15x, although it may be better quality. Meanwhile Henry Boot (BOOT) also came up as another that could have re-entered the portfolio. But since the portfolio has a housebuilder (Bellway) and plant hire via VP I decided to give that a miss too.
In addition I could have picked Abcam (ABC), Renishaw (RSW), Patisserie Holdings (CAKE), Advanced Medical Solutions (AMS) & even Fevertree Drinks (FEVR) but I overlooked these due to my value bias. It does highlight the fact that the Compound Income Scores are not just for yield stocks, but can highlight attractive, quality growth stocks too - hmm perhaps I should rename them the Compounding Scores? Or maybe as I have suggested in the past perhaps I should run an unconstrained portfolio based on the Scores, but of course if you subscribe to them yourself you're able to do that if you want.
Any way in the end I decided on a couple of cheaper alternatives in Renew Holdings (RNWH) which may not be the highest quality outfit, but the nature of their business (essential maintenance in the main) should provide a bit of stability. In addition they have seen some upgrades post their recent interims and made a reasonable looking acquisition too. This bolsters their exposure to railway maintenance and is expected to be materially earnings enhancing with the return on investment also expected to comfortably exceed their cost of capital. So on this basis I think there could be more upgrades to come and a possibility that the share which have sold off this year, could may be return toward their previous highs around 480p, perhaps.
Finally the other stock I settled on was Forterra (FORT) a brick making company, which trades quite cheaply, but looks to be trading well given the on going push to build houses and shortage of bricks which is leading them to invest in more capacity funded from their cash flow. Obviously not without its risk if the housing market or economy should suddenly go into reverse, but for now it seem fine so into the portfolio it goes. It does also add to the housing and construction exposure on top of Bellway & VP. The portfolio will also pick up the final dividend of 6.4p which goes XD on 14th June for an immediate yield of 2% which will help recover the cost of these trades.
So after those changes that leaves the CISP on a forward PE of around 14.5x with a forecast yield of 3.25% on the back of expected dividend growth of 13.2% which all seems OK to me. Don't forget if you'd like to Score your portfolio or get more ideas like these on a regular basis then check out the Scores link here or at the main menu at the top of the site or in the three bars if you are on a mobile.
With it being the first week of the new month and a New Year in this case I undertook the monthly re-screening of the portfolio having not done any trades on the back of the one in December given the likely thin market conditions and some marginal sales that came up at that time. There were however two natural sales this month, the first of which was the insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thomson (JTL) which had only entered the portfolio at the end of October on the back of some upgrades. This time around the score had deteriorated to 69 as the previous upgrades seemed to have been reversed. This was now well below the 75 to 80 sale threshold that I normally use, having been just around it in December. Thus it was a natural sale on the process and therefore booked a small profit of around 6% on this as the share price had risen despite the downgrades. Personally I felt indifferent about it too as it is on close to 20x with a 2.6% yield and only had fairly modest dividend growth forecasts of 5.3% in the current year.
This was replaced with another financial in the shape of Miton Group (MGR) the small (£64m Market Cap.) fund management company, although the emerging market specialist City of London Group (CLIG) ran it a close second as it seems pretty stable, good value and emerging markets still seem relatively cheap. I did also debate this with myself as the portfolio already has a fund manager and a broking company, but hey we are in a bull market and global economies seem set fair so I let it go in as the highest scoring qualifying candidate after applying my value constraints. The other attraction with Miton, in contrast to JLT, was that it had already said they were going to beat forecasts and had upgrades accordingly. Despite this and a rise in the price post the announcement it seems to have drifted back since (on profit taking presumably), so it also seemed to be offering an attractive entry point. It also offers reasonable valuation characteristics of a PE under 12x and a yield of close to 4% based on next years (December 2018) forecasts which suggest dividend growth of 27% after this years forecast 10%. That does seem like quite a jump so maybe this years dividend could be better than expected as analysts often upgrade earnings but fail to adjust their dividend forecasts, plus they have a cash rich balance sheet too. Finally also worth noting that they only seem to pay the dividend once a year in May with an XD in March - so another reason why this may be an opportune moment to pick some up. However, given the small market cap. it may not be that liquid, but in the interests of full disclosure I have managed to buy some myself having booked a decent trading profit on some Polar Capital (POLR) that I picked up towards the end of last year after they had strong upgrades.
The second natural sale based on a decline in its score, also primarily on downgrades, was the expensive, quality, defensive(?) stock Diageo (DGE) where the score had fallen to 73 making it much more of a marginal call. The valuation is looking stretched though as the share price momentum it has displayed has left it with a PE of 22.2x, a yield of 2.55% and an earnings yield of less than 5%. So I decided to follow the process rather than my own feelings as personally I continue to hold it as part of a broader diversified income portfolio.
A couple of similar or defensive type stocks which came up as possible replacements were Stock Spirits (STCK) and AB Foods (ABF). Neither of these seemed particularly cheap either so in the end I replaced it with a much cheaper, but more cyclical company which scores highly. This was the equipment rental firm VP which trades on a sub 10x PE with a yield of 3.2% with dividend growth forecast to be 15% and a good track record on that front too. It had also seen upgrades recently on the back of an upbeat trading statement, although the shares had also drifted back a bit recently too. It does feel a bit like I'm coming late to this particular party, but then that's what following a quantitative process does, makes you take what feel like uncomfortable decisions. In this case I can probably rationalize it given the valuation and the strongish economic background generally.
Other candidates in a similar space were Ashtead (AHT), dismissed because it yielded under 2% and Somero (SOM) which was sold back in August for the portfolio, but which I picked up myself toward the end of last year. It looks pretty solid (pun intended) assuming they can deliver the promised second half recovery from poor weather related trading in H1. It didn't score as well as or look such good value as VP on a PE and yield basis, although it does offer a more attractive looking earnings yield, but personally I can see the attractions and they could also be a beneficiary of the recently proposed US tax changes.
So there ends the update on the trades & other ideas from the Compound Income Scores Portfolio monthly screening and don't forget if you would like to identify more opportunities like these yourself by using the Compound Income Scores as part of your investment research process too, then you can read more about them and gain access to them for the equivalent of just £1 a week by clicking here or on the Scores menu in the navigation menu toward the top of the site or the three bars if you are on a mobile / tablet. Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year.