I’ve been popping stocks into my shopping basket in recent weeks and it’s time I took one or two to the checkout. Here are five tempting stocks from April. Should I buy any of them?
I’ll say one thing about Russian companies, they’re never boring. Russian gold and silver producer Polymetal International (LSE: POLY) may have listed on the FTSE 100 in 2011, but its heart still belongs to the wild wild east. Its share price is down 42% over the past six months, against a 6% rise in the FTSE 100, but it’s up 30% over the last month. Its exposure to volatile commodity and gold prices is largely to blame, and company costs are a concern. Polymetal now trades at 9.6 times earnings, against 13.2 times in April. That makes it notably cheaper than the FTSE 100 average of 13.76 times earnings. Forecast earnings per share (EPS) growth is 30% this calendar year, which puts the yield on a forecast 4.2%, so there is income to be had as well. If you are willing to take a gamble, POLY could be worth a punt.
If Polymetal is one of the death or glory boys of the FTSE, Rexam (LSE: REX) is one of its unsung heroes. It makes its money from manufacturing beverage cans, which isn’t glamorous, but brings in plenty of tin. Or so I thought. In June Rexam shocked the market by issuing a profit warning, announcing a “challenging” first half as beverage can volume growth began the year more slowly than planned. First-half operating performance was down, and the company warned that full-year performance will be “modestly lower than previously anticipated”. Chairman Stuart Chambers took the opportunity to invest £46,000 in his own shares. Should you follow his example? The share price has stabilised since that shock, but given its worries, Rexam looks pricey at 13.7 times earnings, with a humdrum 3.1% yield. Forecast EPS growth of 10% this calendar year and 9% next looks healthy enough, and Deutsche Bank has it as a buy, with a target price of £5.50 (today’s price: £4.89). But there must be cannier investments out there.
Chemicals company Croda International (LSE: CRDA) only joined the FTSE 100 in March 2012, at which point its previously stellar share price growth stopped. After rising a stratospheric 303% in five years, it has managed 3% in the past 12 months. So is the chemicals romance over? Maybe not, given that it has just posted a 6% increase in first-half profits and lifted its dividend by 8.4%. Croda is struggling in Europe, but like so many FTSE 100 companies, it is pinning its prospects on emerging markets. Valued at 18.8 times earnings, Croda looks expensive given modest EPS forecasts of 4% this year and 9% in 2014. The yield is a measly 2.2%. This is still a strong business, with 24.3% operating margins and ROCE of 56.4%. Goldman Sachs has it as a conviction buy with a target of £32 (today’s price: £24), but I’m less convinced.
Every time I think about Carnival (LSE: CCL), I picture a capsized liner, which is hardly the ideal brand image for the world’s largest cruise business. The Costa Concordia disaster, which killed 32 people in January 2012, and three further liner incidents in 2013, have weighed on the share price. Drifting onto the rocks of reputational ruin isn’t the only problem, sales have been slow in Europe, although growth prospects in the Chinese and Japanese cruise markets are buoyant. Second-quarter results, published in June, were better than expected, with reported profits hitting $41 million, up from $14 million last year. Revenues held steady at £3.5 billion. I’m impressed by management’s drive to reduce Carnival’s exposure to fuel prices, cutting consumption by 23% since 2005. But trading at more than 20 times earnings, it still looks too choppy for me.
I thought oilfield service company Petrofac (LSE: PCF) looked a buy in April, but June proved me wrong. Its share price slumped after management forecast only “modest growth” this year, with results “significantly weighted towards the second half”. To add to the uncertainty, president and executive director Maroun Semaan, who joined the company in 1991, has just said he will retire at the end of the year. Petrofac is also exposed to upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, of which there has been plenty lately. Despite this, the business still looks strong. It has a hefty $11.9 million order backlog and is on course to more than double 2010 group profits by 2015. And it is winning new business, including a $50 million three-year operations and maintenance contract in June for Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production. A 24% drop in the share price in the last six months leaves it at a tempting 10.9 times earnings. The dividend is a modest 3.2%, but forecast EPS growth looks pretty slick at 4% this calendar year and 16% in 2014. Petrofac still looks like a buy to me.
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> Harvey doesn’t own any of the shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Petrofac.