Why WPP PLC, Ashtead Group plc and Victrex plc Should Beat The FTSE 100 Today

FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) finished in marginally positive territory yesterday with a 7-point gain to 6,559. But it’s lost that again so far today, dropping 12 points to 6,547. Decent growth prospects from Prudential had given the index an early boost, but that optimism didn’t last long against the prevailing pre-Christmas bearishness.

Are there any shares looking good today? Here are three that were ahead in early trading:


Shares in WPP are on the rise again, picking up a further 10p (0.8%) to 1,328p in morning trading, after the firm announced another acquisition.

The advertising and media giant is to take a majority stake in social media specialist Volcanic. There were no details of the acquisition value in today’s announcement, but Volcanic has an annual turnover of around £2m.

WPP shares are about 52% up over the year, though they have been even higher.


Construction support firm Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT) gained 14p (2%) to 727p on the release of a first-half report revealing a 50% rise in underlying earnings per share (EPS) to 26.7p.

That came after revenue picked up 23% to £849.7m with underlying pre-tax profit up 49% to £212.3m. On a statutory basis the figures were even better, with pre-tax profit up 82% and EPS up 81%.

The firm has lifted its interim dividend by 50% to 2.25p per share — a similar rise at year-end would only provide a 1.5% yield, mind.


For a much bigger rise, we can look to Victrex (LSE: VCT) and its 95p (6%) jump to 1,660p this morning.

This time it was final results that did the trick, although the improvement was modest — revenue rose by just 1% to £221.9m, with pre-tax profit flat at £94.6m and EPS up 1% to 85.7p.

But at least the dividend picked up with a 15% boost to 43p per share — for a yield of 2.6%, which is a bit below the FSTE’s average of around 3%.

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Victrex.