On an otherwise quiet Thursday, my eye has been caught by a couple of news-driven share price falls that might have thrown up a couple of bargains.
Financial services stumble
Earnings have been a bit rocky from Hansard Global (LSE: HSD) in recent years, though a big rise in 2015 suggested the financial services firm might be back to winning ways. But a big fall in profits for the year ended 30 June led to a 14% fall in morning trading today, to 120p, reversing the price spikes of the past few days.
Underlying profit after tax fell by 23% to £9.2m, with reported earnings per share down 45% to 6p. But on the bright side, the company did enjoy a near doubling of new business sales, to £119.3m, and lifted its final dividend payment from 5.25p to 5.3p per share — the total payout of 8.9p represents a yield of 7.4% on the current share price, although it’s not covered by earnings.
Hansard shares had been up 26% since 27 July before today’s revelation, and that rise has now been pegged back to just 7.6%. So does today’s retreat give us a buying opportunity?
Hansard conducted a strategic review in 2014, and chairman Philip Gregory reminded us that the subsequent changes were always going to take several years to work through. He said that 2016 was the year in which “the strategic changes made to our products, distribution, processes and executive management started to improve our performance.“
I really don’t think this year’s results, replete with one-off items, genuinely reflect the underlying value of the business.
In fact, on the same day as these results, the firm’s broker Panmure Gordon lifted its price target to 143p from 124p — not as good as an independent broker doing the same, but worthy of note.
Estate agent woes
Shares in estate agent Countrywide (LSE: CWD) dropped 3% this morning, to 220p, after the firm revealed the sale of its stake in Zoopla Property. Countrywide sold more than 9.2m shares at an average price of £3.17 for a total of £29.2m, telling us the proceeds will be used “to reduce corporate indebtedness and for other general corporate purposes.“
At the same time, the company told us it expects UK house prices to fall by 1% in 2017, with 2016 growth predicted to slow to 2.5%. The reason, unsurprisingly, is the uncertainty resulting from June’s Brexit vote.
Today’s fall means Countrywide shares are now down 56% over the past 12 months, having drifted even lower following the plunge that followed the referendum result. So are we looking at a dead duck, or at an unfairly oversold company with solid long-term potential.
Very much the latter, I’d say, with the shares now trading on a P/E of 7.4 on full-year forecasts, dropping as low as 6.8 for 2017. The fall has also boosted the forecast dividend yields, to a tasty 6.6% this year and and an even more tempting 8.3% next. Those forecasts may be downgraded a little now, but the dividends are still decently covered by predicted earnings and there’s plenty of room for a reduction while still maintaining a strong yield.