Today, it seems hard to imagine a time when coronavirus won’t dominate the headlines. But history suggests that the pandemic will pass. As an investor, I try to look ahead. Recently I’ve been picking shares to buy that I think will perform when life returns to normal.
Each of the companies I’ve chosen is a mid-sized business with a solid track record. Recent news suggests to me that all three could outperform the market in 2021.
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A defensive winner?
Unfortunately, many of these purchases take place in pubs, restaurants, and cafes. Food and drink outlets have suffered long periods of closure during lockdown. As a result, Britvic’s revenue fell by 7% last year. Underlying profits fell by 22%.
I don’t see these numbers as a big concern. My impression is that Britvic’s management did everything it could to manage the situation. When life returns to normal and the hospitality trade reopens, I expect sales to recover to normal levels.
Britvic shares have fallen by about 15% over the last year. Although the shares rose on vaccine news in November, they’ve since slipped back again. I reckon Britvic looks decent value at the moment, on 14 times forecast earnings, with a 3.5% dividend yield. This is definitely a share I’d buy at the moment.
Profit from tech growth
My next pick is specialist recruitment group SThree (LSE: STEM). Recruiters have suffered during the pandemic as companies cut back on hiring ahead of a possible recession. But SThree’s focus on the so-called STEM sectors — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — gives me confidence that demand should recover quickly.
Indeed, SThree has already reported improving trading. In November, the company said that trading during the last three months of 2020 was “coming in ahead of expectations”. In December, SThree said that its net fees for the year fell by just 8%, which seems an impressive result to me.
Recruitment is a cyclical business, but SThree has proven to be highly profitable in the past. I expect a good recovery and view this as a growth share I’d buy at current levels.
An emerging market share I’d buy
The final stock I’ve chosen is a company I already own. Asset manager Ashmore Group (LSE: ASHM) is a FTSE 250 firm that specialises in emerging markets. The group is run by founder Mark Coombs, who still owns 31% of Ashmore stock.
I’m a fan of owner-manager companies, as in my experience they’re often run well and with long-term growth in mind. Ashmore was affected by the general turbulence in financial markets last year, but the company’s results for the 12 months to 30 June 2020 showed a modest rise in profits and an operating margin of more than 60%.
The company’s balance sheet remained strong too — Ashmore ended the period with more than £700m of cash on hand. Mr Coombs says that economic forecasts for the year ahead suggest that growth in emerging markets will be higher than in the developed world. This could create opportunities for Ashmore.
Although Ashmore’s share price has risen since I bought the stock, the shares still yield almost 4%. I think further growth is likely and plan to buy more.