The FTSE 250 is in fine form this morning, rising over 1% in early trading. Is this a sign that February might be a little kinder to investors?
Well, no one knows for sure where share prices will go in the near term. As such, I prefer to stick to my strategy of owning great stocks for years rather than weeks. With this in mind, here are two members of the index I’d be happy to buy, whatever happens next.
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Long term theme
Petcare retailer Pets At Home (LSE: PETS) is an example of a great FTSE 250 business that I could see myself holding for the long term. That’s despite its share price falling around 7% in 2022 so far.
A beneficiary of multiple UK lockdowns and the pet boom that accompanied them, the mid-cap continues to release encouraging updates. Group like-for-like revenue increased 8.7% in the 12 weeks to 30 December compared to the same period in 2020. Perhaps more significantly, it was also 28.1% higher than two years ago.
This isn’t all that surprising. Pets At Home now seems to have every corner covered. In addition to its 455-store retail estate, the company is rapidly growing its online presence (evidenced by the 99% jump in omnichannel revenue on a two-year basis). It also has a burgeoning veterinary services arm, gaining 9,200 new registrations per week on average.
At 20 times forecast earnings, the shares aren’t exactly cheap. However, I can’t see the themes of “long-term pet ownership, humanisation and premiumisation” highlighted by the company disappearing any time soon. Moreover, the company is “firmly on track to report a record year of sales and profit growth”, according to soon-to-depart CEO Peter Pritchard. It also has net cash of £77m on its balance sheet.
My only slight concern right now, aside from the need to replace its leader, is the extent to which inflationary pressures might impact the company going forward. They certainly won’t go away overnight. Then again, that’s true for all sorts of businesses.
I’d be comfortable buying Pets At Home today but I’d back up the truck if the share price continues to fall over 2022.
Another solid FTSE 250 stock
Kitchen supplier Howden Joinery (LSE: HWDN) is another FTSE 250 stock that benefited from the three UK lockdowns. A hot housing market may have also contributed to what has been something of a purple patch for the near-£5bn-cap business. Like Pets at Home, however, the shares have lost a bit of momentum in 2022 so far. As I type, they’re down 12%.
Howdens is down to report its latest set of full-year numbers (covering the vast majority of 2021) later this month. Given that the company only recently stated that pre-tax profit should be “at the top end of analyst forecasts“, I can’t see its value tumbling from here.
Of course, I may be completely wrong. Now that we look to be coming to the end of the pandemic, there’s a possibility that more existing holders may look to bank some profit. After all, kitchens aren’t something that people replace every year.
Still, a P/E of 17 doesn’t exactly scream ‘overvalued’ when I consider Howden’s solid margins, strong brand, consistently high returns on capital and sizeable market share. So, even if the company does struggle to repeat 2021’s performance, I’m confident that this would still be a worthy addition to my quality-focused portfolio.