Three great shares to buy after this week’s updates?

Do updates make Severn Trent plc (LON: SVT), Alliance Pharma plc (LON: APH) and BHP Billiton plc (LON: BLT) into must-buys?

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We’ve got used to Brexit uncertainty and a lot of folks are more interested in the hot weather than in their investments. But we mustn’t let any of that stop us keeping an eye on the company news coming our way. Here are three that have just released updates, so is it time to buy them?

Super safe dividends

We’ve just had a trading update from Severn Trent (LSE: SVT) whose modest but reliable dividends are much sought after in these Brexit-worry days. In fact, since 23 June, Severn Trent shares have gained 10% to 2,464p, including a modest gain after the latest update.

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The water company told us that its cost-cutting plans are “making good progress” and its Water Plus joint venture with United Utilities has completed successfully. Other than that, there’s no real change to expectations for the full year, and the results, due on 24 May, should be in line with expectations.

That suggests we’ll see a modest fall in earnings and a dividend yield of around 3.3%, so should you buy? Well, Severn Trent is a reliable provider of dividends for sure, but with the shares on a P/E as high as 24 now, I think there are better safety bargains out there.

A pharma growth opportunity?

On Tuesday we had a first-half update from Alliance Pharma (LSE: APH) that’s given the shares a 4.5% boost to 45.75p. Alliance’s acquisition of Sinclair Healthcare in December has doubled the firm’s overall sales, with £20.6m from Sinclair contributing to a total of £46.4m,and the integration of the two companies should be pretty much completed by Q3 update time.

Sales of the company’s three main growth products are going as expected too, so there seems to be no problem there. But there was one note of caution regarding the pending Brexit as Alliance tells us it’s “too early to assess the long-term impact.” Yet there are, apparently, no market access issues anticipated, and the fall in Sterling should help Alliance’s bottom line.

Dividends are currently modest at around 3%, but if Alliance Pharma has the ability to grow as many hope, its low P/E of around 11 could make it a bargain.

Mining recovery?

A year-end operational review from BHP Billiton (LSE: BLT) didn’t exactly send the market into rapture, with the shares down 2% to 928p as I write. Production volumes fell across the board, with petroleum output down 6%, copper down 8%, iron ore down 2% and energy coal down 16% (though metallurgical coal output rose 1%). Although production of iron ore in Western Australia hit a new high, the Samarco mine disaster was responsible for the overall fall.

Though this might not look too impressive, the company told us it was mostly ahead of its production guidance, and costs should be in line with expectations and falling. There is, however, going to be a hit of $175m in additional charges for the year, partly due to redundancies and closures, with some impairments in BHP’s coal business.

Despite improving sentiment towards China, that country’s iron ore stockpiles are growing and there are fears that will impact on demand in the coming year, so the sector isn’t yet out of the woods. Long term, BHP could well be a good investment, but it’s hard to quantify now and we might need another year of progress to achieve some clarity.

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