In September, my Foolish colleague Royston Wild wrote about Stobart Group (LSE: STOB), the aviation, energy, civil engineering and Infrastructure business, and said he was “expecting another robust set of numbers when interim results are released on October 24.”
Well, the day has arrived, and the figures are pretty good, as he expected. Revenue moved 21% higher than the equivalent period last year, and pro-forma earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose more than 10% to £17m. The directors pushed up the total interim dividend for the period by 20%, suggesting their confidence in the outlook.
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An evolving story
Stobart cast off its famous lorry business as a standalone operation in 2014 and retained a passive investment in the new firm from that point. Since then, with the company focused on aviation, energy and infrastructure, progress has been impressive. Revenue has grown around 140% since 2014, the dividend has shot up 200%, and the share price has risen more than 50%.
The company is using a pro-forma figure to show the underlying progress of the business.That’s because last year’s headline figures were flattered by a profit of almost £124m, received from the partial disposal of Eddie Stobart Logistics. When the lorry business floated on the FTSE AIM market last year, Stobart Group reduced its holding, but still retains some shares in the operation.
Today, Stobart Group has identified its two “major growth divisions” as Aviation and Energy, where pro-forma underlying EBITDA grew almost 15% and 90%, respectively, during the period. The energy division is a biomass fuel provider, sourcing, processing, and transporting waste wood and other waste-derived fuels for third-party biomass plants across the UK. And the aviation division owns and operates London Southend Airport, operating flights under franchise agreements for other airlines, and ground handling operations at airports. There’s also a rail division that undertakes rail and non-rail civil engineering projects.
Looking forward, Stobart said in the report it has made “strong commercial progress” in its core operating businesses during the period, which are both “well-invested and set for significant growth.”
However, the share price has been weak lately, and I reckon that could be because of general stock-market sogginess, the fact that the firm posted a headline loss today, and because the company is in the news because it has sued its former chief executive for alleged wrongdoing. A judge is due to start overseeing a trial at the High Court in London on November 12.
However, City analysts following the firm are expecting robust growth in revenue of more than 25% per year for the next two years, and a bounce-back in profits next year. Chief executive Warwick Brady is optimistic and said that after investing in infrastructure, the firm is “well placed to accelerate our commercial growth plans and demonstrate the value of the Group’s excellent operating businesses.”
I reckon the firm is out of favour with investors but, for me, the dividend is worth collecting while I wait for the waters to clear and for earnings to pick up their pace.