Many UK shares are currently trading at depressed levels. It’s easy to see why investor sentiment towards many FTSE 100 companies is as negative. Factors such as Brexit and the coronavirus crisis mean the near-term outlook for UK businesses is highly uncertain.
However, these are only short-term headwinds. As such, now could be an excellent time for long-term investors to snap up these blue-chip bargains while the rest of the market is looking the other way.
UK shares on offer
HSBC Holdings (LSE: HSBA) is one of the largest banks in the world, and one of the most prominent UK shares. Still, despite the company’s advantages, shares in the lender have come under pressure in recent months.
Following these declines, shares in HSBC are now trading as a level not seen since the late 1990s.
This is unwarranted, in my view. While the company is facing short-term headwinds, such as the coronavirus crisis and low-interest rates, it’s one of the few genuinely global banks.
This is HSBC’s most significant competitive advantage. Clients can trade across the world and move money through the bank’s accounts without having to open new accounts with other lenders.
Despite this relatively unique advantage, HSBC is one of the cheapest UK shares. Following recent declines in the lender’s share price, the stock is currently dealing at a price-to-book (P/B) ratio of just a 0.5. That suggests the stock offers a wide margin of safety at current levels.
What’s more, before the pandemic struck, HSBC was one of the biggest dividend payers of all UK shares. While the bank is currently prohibited from paying dividends, when the crisis is over, I think management will restore the payout. If it’s restored at last year’s level, the stock’s yield may be as high as 6.8%.
All of the above suggests now could be an excellent time to snap up some shares in this undervalued lender.
St James’s Place
A handful of other UK shares have similar qualities to HSBC. St James’s Place (LSE: STJ) is one example. This is one of the UK’s most recognised and trusted wealth management brands.
Its latest trading update seems to prove the point. Net cash inflows rose 2% to £4.5bn in the six months to end-June. That’s highly impressive considering the fact that the stock market experienced one of its worst crashes on record at the end of March.
That said, like many UK shares, St James’s has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Profits declined by a double-digit percentage year-on-year during the first half. Still, the firm registered a better performance than most of its FTSE 100 peers.
Management has been able to keep the company’s dividend as a result, albeit at a reduced level. On current forecasts, the stock will pay investors a yield of 2% this year. That’s below the 4% paid last year, but still attractive considering the current environment.
These qualities suggest St James’s Place may be one of the best UK shares to buy in a diversified portfolio right now.
Right now, this ‘screaming BUY’ stock is trading at a steep discount from its IPO price, but it looks like the sky is the limit in the years ahead.
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Rupert Hargreaves owns no share mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended HSBC Holdings. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.