“My best-performing UK stock in 2023 has been…”

Four very different UK stocks owned by a Fool.co.uk contractor are highlighted for their performance in 2023 so far.

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As we get ever closer to closing out the year, we asked a number of our Fool UK contributors to share which stocks in their portfolios have fared the best year to date!

Barclays

What it does: Barclays is an international bank with operations including retail and investment banking.  

By Charlie Keough. I opened a position in Barclays (LSE: BARC) earlier this year and since then I’ve managed to see a handsome return on my investment. Of course, these gains are unrealised. And I don’t plan on selling the stock any time soon. That’s because I think there’s more to come from Barclays.  

My main attraction was its low valuation. With a price-to-earnings ratio of around 4, it looks like a steal. Its price-to-book ratio of 0.3 reinforces this.  

I also look for passive income opportunities with my investments. And with a dividend yield of 5%, Barclays ticks that box. 

Global inflationary pressures and Barclays international exposure, especially its US arm, may be holding the share price back. I’d suspect this to continue in the months ahead.  

However, as a long-term buy, I see the UK stock as a winner. I managed to snap up the stock at a cheap price and so far, it’s proving to be fruitful. If it dips again, I’ll be looking to top up my holdings.  

Charlie Keough owns shares in Barclays.  

hVIVO

What it does: hVIVO designs and tests infectious and respiratory disease vaccines and therapeutics using human challenge clinical trials.  

By Ben McPoland. Before checking, I’d have assumed Rolls-Royce would be my best-performing UK stock this year (I invested in April). However, it is in fact hVIVO (LSE: HVO), which is up around 70%, as I type.

The reason for the share price surge has been the firm’s repeated earnings upgrades across the year. The latest was in September when it reported a 52% jump in sales during H1. The company now expects its annual revenue to be £55m instead of £53m.

Half-year profit more than doubled to £5.2m, while its contracted order book rose 11% year-on-year to £78m. Also noteworthy, hVIVO paid its first ever dividend this year, a clear sign of its growing financial health.

The company is a world leader in running human challenge trials, which involves exposing healthy volunteers to the pathogen a treatment is being trialled to protect against. They offer a faster and cheaper way for pharma firms to access reliable data, rapidly advancing the drug development pathway.

hVIVO’s market cap is around £133m, so this can be a volatile small-cap stock to hold.

Ben McPoland own shares in Rolls-Royce and hVIVO.

Sage

What it does: Sage is a leading provider of cloud-based accounting and payroll software that is focused on serving small- and medium-sized businesses.

By Edward Sheldon, CFA. 2023 hasn’t been a great year for UK shares, as a whole, so far. However, I’ve had some good performers in my portfolio. Sage (LSE: SGE) is a an example – as I write this it’s up nearly 30% for the year.

There are a number of reasons this stock has outperformed the market in 2023. One is that company results have been strong. For the nine months ended 30 June, for instance, revenue was up 10% year on year.

Another is that this company is well insulated from inflation. Not only does it have low levels of expenses (i.e. a high gross margin) but it also has the ability to raise its prices without losing a lot of customers.

Can the shares keep rising from here? I think so, given the high level of demand for software solutions that can increase a firm’s productivity and lower its costs.

That said, after the UK stock’s big rise this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a pullback in the short term.

Edward Sheldon owns shares in Sage

Shell

What it does: Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemical companies, employing 93,000 people and with operations in more than 70 countries.

By Andrew Mackie. The share price appreciation seen by Shell (LSE: SHEL) year to date may not have been quite as spectacular as in 2022, but a solid 17% rise puts it at the top of the pile in terms of performance in my portfolio this year.

I began accumulating shares in the company when it fell off a cliff in 2020. I listened to Warren Buffett’s most famous mantra: be greedy when others are fearful.

However, I have not taken any profits off the table. In fact, I have done the exact opposite and have kept on accumulating throughout this and last year.

I continue to believe that we are still very much in the early stages of a secular bull market for commodities. An acceleration of the onshoring trend together with huge fiscal stimulus packages from the likes of the Inflation Reduction and CHIPS legislation in the US, will drive demand for oil.

Of course, the issue around peak oil continues to be a major risk for the long-term fortunes of Shell. I could be wrong, but I still see oil demand holding up for many decades to come. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I won’t be selling my shares in this UK stock any time soon.

Andrew Mackie owns shares in Shell.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays Plc and Sage Group Plc. 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.

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