Why AstraZeneca plc, Balfour Beatty plc and IG Group Holdings plc Should Beat The FTSE 100 Today

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) lost 20 points to 6,738 by late morning to stand two points down on the week so far, as trading volumes are starting to pick up after the festive lull. Sentiment appears mixed ahead of the forthcoming reporting season, so we perhaps shouldn’t expect much movement until those December 2013 results start rolling in.

We did at least have some positive bits of news, pushing up a few shares in the FTSE indices. Here are three:


AstraZeneca has been plotting a recovery course since chief executive Pascal Soriot took the helm, aimed at reversing the slide in revenue and profits caused by the loss of patent protection on some key drugs.

Today the pharmaceuticals giant gave us an update, telling us that thing are going better than expected and that it expects a return to growth more rapidly than current analyst forecasts suggest. We should have more details of progress with the firm’s full-year results, which are due on 6 February.

The share price responded with a 69p (2%) rise to 3,733p, taking it up close to 25% over the past 12 months.

Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty (LSE: BBY) has been recovering since the summer, with its share price up now up around 40% since July — and that includes a 9p (3.1%) rise by late morning today to 299p.

The driver was a trading update in advance of full-year results, due on 6 March, and things are looking solid. The construction and infrastructure firm assured us that things are going in line with expectations outlined at Q3 time in November, and that its year-end order book should be broadly in line with a year ago.

The company has also picked up some new work in the past quarter, including the £154m Olympic Park transformation deal and a number of rail contracts.

IG Group

IG Group Holdings shares gained 6.6p (1.1%) to 634p after the financial derivatives trader released first-half results. The firm told us of “strong results relative to subdued prior year“, with net trading revenue up 8% to £182.7m. Pre-tax profit gained 17% to £95.1m, with diluted earnings per share up 22% to 19.63p. The interim dividend was held at 5.75p per share.

Analysts are currently forecasting a rise in EPS for the full year of just 1%, so today’s interim figures may augur well for an upwards adjustment there. There’s a small rise predicted for the full-year dividend, to yield 3.8%.

Finally, if you're looking for investments that should take you all the way to a comfortable retirement, I recommend the Fool's special report detailing five blue-chip shares. They'll be familiar names to many, and they've already provided investors with decades of profits.

But the report will only be available for a limited period, so click here to get your hands on these great ideas -- they could set you on the road to long-term riches.

Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.