Are Bellway plc, Essentra plc and Soco International plc a buy after today’s updates?

Do Bellway plc (LON:BWY), Essentra plc (LON:ESNT) and Soco International plc (LON:SIA) offer buying opportunities for smart investors?

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Brexit fears are having no effect on house sales. That’s the view of mid-market housebuilder Bellway (LSE: BWY), which said today that the EU referendum hasn’t had “any noticeable effect on trading”.

Bellway shares fell by 2% following this morning’s announcement, but the firm’s figures look good. The group expects to report a 10% increase in both the average sale price and the number of properties sold during the current financial year, which ends on 31 July.

The company says that the introduction of the London Help to Buy scheme — which guarantees up to 40% of buyer’s mortgages — has helped. Properties bought in this way now account for 14% of Bellway’s reservations in London.

If you believe that investor confidence in the housing market will bounce back after the referendum, Bellway could be a smart buy. This stock currently trades on a forecast P/E of 8.7 and offers a prospective yield of 3.7%. Bellway shares are down by nearly 10% so far this year, but could easily rise sharply if sentiment improves.

Beware this falling knife

Shares in specialist manufacturer Essentra (LSE: ESNT) fell by 27% this morning, after the firm issued a profit warning. Essentra makes cigarette filters, packaging and pipe protection products for the oil industry.

Analysts were expecting the firm to report a 10% increase in revenue and a sharp rise in profits. However, Essentra says revenue is now expected to be flat in 2016, while adjusted operating profit is expected to fall from £171.5m last year to between £155m and £165m.

The company said that poor trading conditions in its filter division were to blame, along with deferral of “certain large projects”. Operational issues relating to site moves in the firm’s healthcare division have also had an impact on operating profit.

Essentra shares have now fallen by 39% over the last year. However, the firm loaded up on debt last year to fund acquisitions. The shares could still have further to fall. It’s worth remembering that management optimism and denial often gives truth to the stock market saying that profit warnings come in threes.

I think it’s too soon to buy, and will review the situation again after the interim results in July.

An undervalued cash generator?

I’m more optimistic about the outlook for Vietnam-focused oil firm Soco International (LSE: SIA). In a statement issued before today’s AGM, Soco confirmed that production was in line with forecasts and said that payment of a $52.7m deferred from 2005 was being “rigorously pursued”.

In the meantime, Soco’s low operating costs mean that it only needs an oil price in the low $20s to achieve cash flow break-even. As oil is currently trading at about $50 per barrel, I’d expect Soco to be generating a certain amount of free cash flow at the moment.

This should help the firm to fund its 2016 exploration budget without using up all of the $80m net cash that will remain after this month’s 2p per share dividend payment. My view is that Soco chief executive and founder Ed Storey is pursuing a plan to maximise cash returns to shareholders over the next few years, ahead of a possible retirement. In my view, Soco could deliver decent returns as the oil market recovery gathers pace.

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.

Roland Head has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Essentra. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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