All three of these stocks have released updates today, but does it make them buys or sells for long-term Foolish investors?

Gulf Keystone Petroleum

Gulf Keystone Petroleum (LSE: GKP) has today announced that 82% of its bondholders have supported its debt restructuring proposal so far. This follows the launch last month of a $500m debt-for-equity swap. This will help to improve Gulf Keystone’s somewhat uncertain financial situation by reducing its debt from $600m to $100m, but at the same time will dilute existing equity holders significantly.

Of course, Gulf Keystone is in the midst of a potential takeover by Norwegian oil company DNO. It has offered $300m in a mix of cash and shares, with Gulf Keystone stating that it won’t engage in any process that causes a distraction from its goal of completing its major debt restructuring.

Looking ahead, Gulf Keystone’s future remains highly uncertain and it faces multiple risks including the geopolitical challenges in the northern Iraq region as well as the scope for a downturn in the price of oil. Therefore, now seems to be a good time to watch, rather than buy, Gulf Keystone.

Direct Line

Also reporting today was Direct Line (LSE: DLG). The insurance company’s gross written premiums increased by 3.9% in the first half of the year, with strong growth in Motor in-force policies (up 2.5%) and premium rates (which rose by 9.5%). While operating profit from ongoing operations fell by £12.2m to £323.6m, this was due in part to investment gains that were £18.5m lower than in the same period of the previous year.

With Direct Line being confident in its medium-term outlook, the company has increased its interim dividend by 6.5% to 4.9p per share and also paid a special dividend of 10p per share. This highlights the income appeal of Direct Line and with dividends for the full year expected to be 23.9p per share, it currently yields 6.3%. That’s higher than the FTSE 100’s yield of around 3.6% and with Direct Line’s bottom line due to rise by 6% this year, further dividend growth is on the horizon. As such, now seems to be a good time to buy a slice of the company.


Meanwhile, Pendragon’s (LSE: PDG) interim results to 30 June show that the automotive online retailer is moving from strength to strength. Its underlying profit before tax rose by 9.7% versus the same period of the previous year, which equates to a near-doubling of profitability within the last three years. And with the underlying trends in the after-sales and used vehicle markets providing a strong tailwind, Pendragon’s four pillar strategy (which is focused on choice, value, service and convenience) seems to be the right one to push its bottom line higher.

Looking ahead, Pendragon is forecast to increase its profit by 4% this year and by a further 5% next year. While this is below the mid-to-high single-digit forecast growth rate of the wider market, Pendragon trades on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 8. This indicates that it has a wide margin of safety as well as upward rerating potential versus the wider index.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of Direct Line Insurance. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.