3 FTSE 100 Shares That The Market Hates: AstraZeneca plc, Wm. Morrison Supermarkets plc and United Utilities Group PLC

AstraZeneca plc (LON:AZN), Wm. Morrison Supermarkets plc (LON:MRW) and United Utilities Group PLC (LON:UU) are three of the least recommended shares in the FTSE 100. Does this make them a great contrarian play?

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Drug giant AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN)(NYSE: AZN.US) has been off brokers’ buy lists for ages. They have called this one wrong. In the last six months, shares in the company are up 9%. In the last year they are up 12%. Over the course of the last five years, shares in AstraZeneca are 38% ahead.

Add in a chunky dividend yield and investors that ignored the AstraZeneca bears will have done very well indeed.

Those same analysts are forecasting that AstraZeneca will make EPS (earnings per share) of $5.27 in 2013. That is 5% below the number for 2012. Another 6% earnings fall is predicted next year.

Income investors will be comforted by the prospect of a 5.9% yield.

Wm. Morrison Supermarkets

If the analysts got AstraZeneca wrong, they have called Wm. Morrison Supermarkets (LSE: MRW) just right.

The shares have made little progress in the short or medium term. Worse still, the business itself is now looking wobbly.

In the last five years, Morrisons has managed to increase EPS by 36%. That’s respectable growth. However, the share price rating back in 2008 demanded that level of growth. Altough capital appreciation has not come through, Morrisons has been paying a respectable dividend that has been increasing fast. In the last five years, the annual payout has risen from 4.8p to 11.8p.

The shares trade today on a prospective P/E of 10.5, with an anticipated yield of 4.7%.

United Utilities

As a provider of water and sewerage services, United Utilities (LSE: UU) should be one of the safest shares in the FTSE 100. However, the share price and dividend history do not support that view.

In the last five years, the shares have traded between 438p and 785p. Some non-utilities, such as Unilever, have been less volatile. Since 2008, the dividend at United has been cut twice and increased three times. Each of the cuts has been bigger than the rises.

Consensus forecasts for 2013 put United on a P/E of 16.9, with the prospect of a 5.1% yield. There are other companies with better, cheaper prospects available today. I would not want to go against the bears on this one.

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> David does not own shares in any of the above companies. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Morrisons.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

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